Skip to main content

“Ghost gear” is fishing gear that has been abandoned, lost or discarded in the ocean. Fisheries certified to the MSC Fisheries Standard should minimise gear loss and must know the impact any lost gear could have on marine life.

Many fisheries are already working to minimise gear loss, and to align with evolving best practice on issues like the entanglement of marine mammals and turtles in fishing gear.

Fishing gear is expensive and hard to replace or repair, so most fishers manage it carefully. But to ensure this is happening consistently and at a level consistent with best practice across all MSC certified fisheries, we have developed new requirements directing the minimisation of ghost gear and its impact on the marine environment. 

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?

The MSC Fisheries Standard Version 3.0 contains strengthened requirements to ensure the impacts of ghost gear are explicitly considered during every fisheries assessment. Fisheries must also have effective measures in place to minimise gear loss and mitigate the impact of any losses, including fish aggregating devices (FADs).  

Management strategies to minimise gear loss

We have revised our requirements under Principle 1 of the Standard (sustainability of stocks) to make the consideration of ghost gear impact more explicit. 

We have also introduced a new requirement to the Principle 2 components for Endangered, Threatened or Protected species (ETP) and Out-of-Scope species (ETP/OOS) and Habitats which will direct fisheries to implement management strategies focused on minimising gear loss (including lost or discarded Fish Aggregation Devices) and ghost gear impact. 

Any fishery that has no associated ETP/OOS species will be scored on its impact on “In scope” species instead, so that ghost fishing is always considered in any assessment. 

New guidance on practices to prevent gear loss

Additionally, we produced extensive guidance on what we consider minimum acceptable practice on avoiding gear loss (and reducing ghost gear impact) necessary to pass an assessment, as well as the best practice measures that fisheries need to achieve to be certified without conditions. 

Monitoring and retrieving lost gear

To achieve certification, fisheries may need to monitor lost gear and entanglements and implement marking and retrieval programs. They will also need to minimise the impact of lost gear – such as using biodegradable locks on pots or gear designs which reduce catch efficiency if lost.

New requirements for Fish Aggregating Devices

Fisheries will now need to account for any FADs that are lost and be able to demonstrate they are avoiding and managing this loss. This includes tracking or retrieving FADs, or showing they are low impact by being non entangling and biodegradable. 

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 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 our new requirements and guidance on preventing gear loss and ghost fishing:

MSC Fisheries Standard Review – Impact Assessment Report – Supporting the prevention of gear loss and ghost fishing (November 2021)

MSC Fisheries Standard Review - Impact Assessment Report - Supporting the prevention of gear loss and ghost fishing (Jan 2021)

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

Consultation summary report – Ghost gear (June 2021) 

Consultation summary report – Ghost gear (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.