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 Standardrelates to 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 continue to align with the latest in global best practice, and that they are clear and consistently applied. Following a review of our existing requirements, we have identified areas for potential improvement. 

Areas for potential improvement within Principle 3

Introducing requirements on the type and quality of evidence needed for scoring fisheries

To ensure fishery assessments are based on a high and consistent standard of information, we incentivise fisheries to collect the best available information. To better achieve this, we are developing requirements that set out the type and quality of information that is needed to achieve certain scoring guideposts.

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

We want to ensure requirements for monitoring, control and surveillance systems are aligned with, and encourage, current global best practice. Requirements also need to be expressed clearly so that they are applied consistently by different fishery assessors.

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?

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 options for revisions

We have developed options for revisions to our Standard for two components of this project following stakeholder consultations and impact assessments.

1. Introducing requirements on the type and quality of evidence needed for scoring fisheries

We are proposing an Evidence Requirements Framework to help assessors judge whether fisheries have provided adequate information to show they meet our Standard. The three-step framework will be used to score the information-related performance indicators across all three principles of the Standard and will make sure assessors use a systematic and consistent approach. 

Step 1: Risk assessment
Assessors consider the risk of the Unit of Assessment having a negative impact on a species or a habitat feature. This classification of risk guides assessors’ judgement in the remaining steps of the framework, with greater levels of risk calling for a higher quality of information. 

Step 2: Evaluation of information quality
Assessors evaluate the quality of information provided by a fishery against pre-determined criteria, including the objectivity of information, its relevance to the unit of assessment and how complete it is. The risk classification is taken into consideration at this stage. 

Step 3: Information thresholds  
Clear requirements will describe what level of quality the information must achieve at different scoring guideposts levels. These will be focused on the characteristics of the information, such as its level of precision, and will include thresholds that must be met. Requirements will be more ambitious for those fisheries classed as having a higher level of risk. 

Read our impact assessment report on introducing evidence requirements, detailing the positive and negative impacts associated with the proposed changes.

2. Establishing best practice in Monitoring, Control and Surveillance

The existing performance indicator structure will be retained, but the scoring guideposts will be updated so that the definition of current best practice is much clearer in the requirements.

A new scoring issue will also be added for assessing fishers’ compliance with management rules. This will mean fisheries are assessed on the extent to which they are compliant separately from the information they provide to demonstrate compliance.

These changes will clarify how enforcement and compliance should be assessed and ensure scoring is consistent across fisheries.

Read our impact assessment report on monitoring, control and surveillancesetting out the positive and negative impacts associated with the proposed changes.

Our Technical Advisory Board and Stakeholder Advisory Council advised on the options and made recommendations to  our Board of Trustees. The Board approved options to be taken forward in the review and refined.

Links with other projects in the Review

The outcomes of the 'Introducing requirements on the type and quality of evidence needed for scoring fisheries' component are also linked to several other projects in the review, including:

We will ensure that these evidence requirements take into account any other changes through these projects. 

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.

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).

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

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

View the summary report from the 2020 consultation on ‘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.


Next steps

We are refining the proposed options for revisions  to the Standard, and are seeking further input from technical experts on how the quality of fisheries information should be described and assessed.  

We will also carry out pilot assessments of the Evidence Requirements Framework in June 2021, taking guidance and advice from our Stakeholder Advisory Council working group. 

By the end of 2021, we will have draft of the revised MSC Fisheries Standard, which will be reviewed by our governance bodies.

In early 2022, stakeholders will have an opportunity to review all proposed changes before any final decision to revise the Standard is made.

The new Standard will be released later in 2022 following approval from our Board.

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