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

The new MSC Evidence Requirements Framework tool, developed as part of the latest Fisheries Standard Review, will enable assessors to better evaluate the quality of information being used to certify a fishery. 

The MSC Fisheries Standard Review ended in June 2022. The new Standard was published on 26 October 2022 and will come into effect on 01 May 2023. Find out more about our new Standard.

What is the Evidence Requirements Framework?

The Evidence Requirements Framework is a tool in the new MSC Fisheries Standard Toolbox, which has been developed to ensure robust and consistent fisheries assessments. It provides assessment teams with a comprehensive method to evaluate the quality of evidence used to determine a fishery’s impacts and compliance with regulations. 

Assessors must evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of a fishery’s monitoring system to determine the accuracy of the information that it provides. This includes consideration of how the information is collected, the extent of the fishery’s activity that is monitored and how the information has been reported and provided to the assessment team. 

The new requirements recognise that objective data collection is a vital characteristic of an effective monitoring system, and as such MSC certified fisheries will also be required to have independent observation of their catches. 

This tool will allow assessors to evaluate information in a systematic way, and to report their findings consistently and transparently as part of the certification process.

Further details on the new evidence requirements framework can be found below. 

New evidence requirements on the quality of information needed for scoring fisheries

To achieve MSC certification, a fishery must have an effective monitoring system in place. A well-designed monitoring system should collect high quality information on a fishery’s activities, such as what it catches, how long it fishes for, where it operates and whether it is compliant with management rules. 

The Evidence Requirements Framework tool will enable assessors to evaluate the accuracy of information that has been collected by a fishery’s monitoring system. For example, assessors may determine that a fishery’s monitoring system is able to document the full range of a fishery’s interaction with endangered, threatened or protected species. It may also help assessors identify gaps in data collection at certain times of year. 

The tool will be used to score information performance indicators and scoring issues throughout the Standard, including those relating to a fishery’s environmental impacts in Principle 2, compliance with management regulations in Principle 3, and the shark finning scoring issues.

Evaluating the accuracy of information

The tool sets out a method to infer the accuracy of information used to score a fishery, based on an evaluation of the information system that produces it. It does not measure the accuracy of information directly. 

The new requirements are focused on assessing the strengths and weaknesses in a fishery’s monitoring system and understanding how the accuracy of information may be affected. 

For example, the tool could identify the consistent underreporting of compliance issues, which will result in biased data. Or it could establish if there is high variability in catches from one fishing trip to the next, which can reduce the precision of catch estimates. 

Assessment teams can use the tool to identify where such issues exist in a fishery’s monitoring system and reach a conclusion on how accurate the resulting information is. 

Evaluating the precision of catch estimates

Catch estimates are vital to understanding the impact of a fishery on the species it is catching. It is important to be confident in the accuracy of these estimates, and the new tool includes detailed requirements on estimate precision. 

As a minimum requirement for meeting our Standard (SG60), all fisheries will need a monitoring system that is able to collect and report catch information. They must also demonstrate that catches are being independently verified. 

Fisheries operating at best practice level (SG80) must have a monitoring system that is designed to ensure the precision of catch estimates. Assessors will be required to evaluate how well the monitoring system deals with variability in catches in order to judge how precisely the catch is being estimated. 

While many fisheries may need to improve or develop monitoring programs to achieve the new evidence requirements, we have not prescribed the monitoring methods that must be used. This avoids a one-size-fits-all approach and allows for future innovation in fisheries monitoring systems. 

Independent observation of catches

MSC certified fisheries must also demonstrate that they have independent observation of catches. This could, for example, be done through an observer programme or electronic monitoring. We have not defined a level of observation required for most fisheries. This allows levels to be set according to the fishing practices and species caught, which will help make sure our Standard remains accessible to fisheries of all sizes. 

However, fisheries that meet all of the following criteria will be required to have independent observation that covers at least 30% of annual fishing operations:

  • Managed by regional fisheries management organisations (RFMO)
  • Operating on the high seas
  • Unwanted catch that includes endangered, threatened and protected species and/or out-of-scope species (mammals, birds, amphibians and reptiles). 

A lower coverage level may be considered only if it has been designed specifically to ensure the precise estimation of catches and is based on credible and transparent scientific research. 

Fisheries with full coverage of independent observation will be considered to be operating at a state-of-the-art level (SG100). 

Implementing the new Standard

Fisheries seeking certification for the first time will need to adhere to the new Standard from 01 May 2023.

Certified fisheries will have at least three years before they are required to begin the transition to the new Standard. This is in compliance with the UN FAO Best Practice Guidelines for Ecolabelling.  

However, we have also introduced a new policy that requires all certificate holders to have completed reassessment to the MSC Fisheries Standard version 3.0 within six years of it being published (01 November 2028). 

Developing our Standard

In 2022, we published Version 3.0 of the MSC Fisheries Standard following the most comprehensive review to date

The development of the Standard follows public consultation on key aspects of the review, including a 60-day public review of the draft Standard and all associated documents. 

We also commissioned independent research and carried out data analysis and impact assessments to determine whether proposals are feasible and deliver our stated intentions. We also sought advice and input from our governance bodies throughout the process.  

Follow the links below to find out more about the different inputs which contributed to the development of the evidence requirements framework:

Impact Assessment Report - Evidence requirements (April 2022)

Impact Assessment Report - Evidence requirements (Nov 2021)

Impact Assessment Report - Introducing requirements on the type and quality of evidence needed for scoring fisheries (April 2021)

Consultation summary report – Proposed revised MSC Fisheries Standard - (May 2022)

Consultation summary report- Strengthening the evidence requirements for MSC certification – (May 2021)

Consultation Summary Report - Introducing new evidence requirements on the quality of information needed for scoring fisheries – (October 2020)


Find out more about how we develop our Standards.

 

MSC Fisheries Standard version 3.0

MSC Fisheries Standard version 3.0

An overview of the changes made to our Standard.

Fisheries Program Documents

Fisheries Program Documents

The MSC Fisheries Standard and General Certification Requirements.