Ensuring effective fisheries management systems are in place

The MSC seeks to reward best practice in fisheries management and support fisheries that are working to improve their management systems.

Principle 3 of the MSC Fisheries Standard relates systems and policies for effective fisheries management. It states that fisheries must be well governed and have adequate monitoring and control systems in place. 

Improving our Standard

We want to ensure that our management requirements still align with the latest in global best practice, and they are clear and consistently applied. Following a review of our existing requirements, we have identified five areas for potential improvement within Principle 3. 

Update best practice in the requirements for monitoring, control and surveillance 

We want to align requirements for monitoring, control and surveillance systems with current global best practice. Requirements need to be clear so that they are applied consistently by fishery assessors. 

Develop evidence requirements for scoring to strengthen fisheries monitoring

We want to make sure MSC certified fisheries are collecting consistent and reliable information on their activities, and that this information is reported clearly in assessment. To achieve this we are developing requirements which set out the type and quality of information needed to achieve certain scoring guideposts.  

Review how major issues in fisheries governance are assessed 

We are assessing whether scope requirements relating to fishing governance are fit for purpose. We are considering whether the use of scope criteria can be used to exclude individual fishers or vessels involved in illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. 

Review barriers to accessibility for small-scale and developing world fisheries

We are reviewing the accessibility of Principle 3 to make sure our requirements do not pose a barrier to small-scale fisheries or those from the Global South achieving certification. Barriers to accessibility could occur if the bar is set too high or if scoring guideposts are not clear.  

Clarify requirements in terms of the language and definitions used

We want to make sure the intent of our requirements and guidance, and the definitions used in them, are clear and unambiguous.


How could the Standard change?

This review could lead to a change in intent of the MSC Fisheries Standard. This is primarily due to the need to strengthen the quality of the evidence required to assess fisheries effectively and consistently. 

Some Performance Indicators within Principle 3 of the Standard may be restructured to ensure that the requirements for what is best practice are clearer. We may also improve the wording of some of the scoring issues to make the requirements easier to understand. 

We hope this will provide clear goals that fisheries can work towards and help certification bodies around the world deliver consistent outcomes in assessments.

Proposed revisions to the Standard

Policy options that propose changes to the Fisheries Standard have been developed for the ‘Establishing best practice in Monitoring, Control and Surveillance’ component of this project following stakeholder consultation and impact assessments. The policy options were presented to the MSC’s Technical Advisory Board and Stakeholder Advisory Council in December 2020 who provided advice and made recommendations to the Board of Trustees. 

In January 2021, the Board of Trustees decided which policies will be taken forward in the review. The policy is detailed below:

Addition of a new scoring issue
The existing performance indicator structure would be retained; however, the existing scoring guideposts could be updated so that current best practice is made much clearer in the requirements. A new scoring issue would also be added for assessing fishers’ compliance with management rules.

This would mean fisheries are assessed on the extent to which they are compliant separately from the information they provide to demonstrate compliance.

We anticipate these changes would clarify how enforcement and compliance should be assessed and ensure scoring is consistent across fisheries.

View our impact assessment report for 'Establishing best practice in monitoring, control and surveillance'.


Progress so far

We have systematically reviewed our requirements including the scope criteria in relation to Principle 3. We have also completed an external review of accessibility in Principle 3.

To develop evidence requirements, we have carried out a comprehensive review of our scoring requirements, and held workshops on fishery monitoring best practice with expert stakeholders. 

Stakeholder consultations

In June and July 2020 we held three virtual workshops on the topic of ‘Introducing requirements on the type and quality of evidence needed for scoring fisheries.’ Participants could provide additional input through a follow-up survey (an online form).

We also held a consultation survey on the topic of ‘Establishing best practice in monitoring, control and surveillance’.

We have published consultation summary reports for both topics, which include transcripts from the workshop, feedback from the surveys and a descriptive analysis of attendees. Commercially sensitive and personal details have been redacted. Please note that the reports do not contain details of policy direction.

View the summary report from the 2020 consultations on ‘Introducing requirements on the type and quality of evidence needed for scoring fisheries’

View the summary report from the 2020 consultation on ‘Establishing best practice in monitoring, control and surveillance’

Next steps

Policy options for the remaining aspects of this project- including the ‘Introducing evidence requirements’ component - will be reviewed by our governance bodies later in 2021. 

We will engage with stakeholders throughout 2021 to keep them informed of developments in the Fisheries Standard Review and opportunities to provide feedback on the revisions proposed. 

The revised Standard will be publicly reviewed in early 2022 to ensure changes are clear and that the new Standard delivers the intentions of our program.



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