Expanding guidance for data-limited fisheries under Principle 1

We want to make sure that all fisheries that are well-managed and sustainable can become certified, even if they do not have the data required for conventional measures, such as full analytical stock assessments.

Improving our standard

It can be difficult to score fisheries that are managed through data-limited approaches against the MSC Fisheries Standard as they lack explicit measures of stock health.

These fisheries can use surrogates or proxies to inform their harvest control rules. This means using different methods to estimate the probabilities required to meet scoring guideposts. We want to make our Standard more accessible to these fisheries.

To ensure that a variety of sustainable approaches can be scored, we are clarifying the language in the Standard and providing more explicit scoring guidance.

We are also developing user-friendly online tool to evaluate and document the performance of management strategies in fisheries using data-limited methods. The new Management Evaluation and Risk Assessment tool (MERA), in its bespoke MSC version (MERA-MSC), will help assign scores for fisheries aiming to become certified, and benchmark progress against sustainability management objectives.



How could the standard change?

This review could lead to a change in the requirements and guidance of the MSC Fisheries Standard. We do not expect to change requirements for fisheries currently not using data-limited approaches and aim to provide new ways for data-limited fisheries to evidence their sustainable practices.

Progress so far

We have carried out a review of the language used in the Standard in relation to the use of data-limited approaches and are developing options to clarify key terms such as status 'proxies' and 'monitoring' when used with these kinds of fisheries. We are also developing guidance for how to score fisheries using data-limited approaches, including simulation-testing tools such as MERA-MSC.

MERA, originally commissioned by MSC, is currently being tested by different organisations. Our version, MERA-MSC, is undergoing testing in fisheries in Mexico, Japan and Indonesia and will be peer-reviewed. A beta version of MERA-MSC is available for anyone to try out and give feedback on. We anticipate that the full tool will be launched at the end of 2021.


Next steps

We are continuing to develop options for revisions to our Standard.

We will carry out pilot assessments and seek guidance from our Technical Advisory Board. This will make sure any changes to our Standard are feasible and achieve the expected outcomes. 

By the end of 2021, we will have a draft of the revised 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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