Skip to main content

The MSC Fisheries Standard is used to assess if a fishery is well-managed and sustainable.

Our Standard has a complex structure and scoring system. To ensure fishery assessments are carried out accurately and consistently, it is important that our Standard is clear and can be applied efficiently.   

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.

How has our Standard changed?

We have clarified the language and structure of the MSC Fisheries Standard. This will help ensure Conformity Assessment Bodies can carry out assessments more efficiently and lead to more consistent outcomes.

The changes will help fisheries to better understand how to meet the Standard and make improvements if conditions of certification are set. It will also make it easier for stakeholders, such as NGOs, to contribute to a fishery assessment.

Clarifying language and reducing duplication

We have clarified the language used in Principle 2 and removed duplication within its Performance Indicators. This includes ensuring that scoring issues only address one question at each scoring guidepost, and the removal of redundant and ambiguous language. As a result, we have removed 15 scoring issues across Principle 2.

We have also minimised cross-referencing to definitions and guidance by clarifying language and providing links to our guidance documents. 

Clarification of definitions

To make sure assessments are as accurate and efficient as possible, we have clarified the definitions of the following management terms used within Principle 2 of our Standard: 

  • ‘Measures’
  • ‘Partial Strategy’ 
  • ‘Strategy’

While the meaning and intent of these terms has not changed, we have developed a table of definitions that consolidates current requirements and guidance on the scale and scope of these terms. This will make it easier for fisheries and assessors to understand the meaning of each, and the differences between them.

Simplify groupings of Principle 2 species

To complement new requirements for endangered, threatened and protected species and out of scope species, the assessment of all other fish and invertebrates not targeted by the fishery will now be assessed under a single component, called in-scope species.

In the previous version of the MSC Fisheries Standard (version 2.01) species that are scored under Principle 2 of our Standard are grouped into several categories including ‘main’ and ‘minor’, and ‘managed’ and ‘unmanaged’. However, these categories are not commonly used to categorise species outside of the MSC, which can lead to confusion for stakeholders and adds complexity for assessors.

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 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 policies

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 enabled us to make our Standard more efficient to use:

 

Find out more about how we develop our Standards. 

 

Fisheries Program Documents

Fisheries Program Documents

The MSC Fisheries Standard and General Certification Requirements.