Supporting the prevention of gear loss and ghost fishing

“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 across all MSC certified fisheries, we want to introduce new requirements on gear loss and produced guidance on what we consider acceptable and best practice.

New MSC Fisheries Standard published

In June 2022, the MSC Board of Trustees approved the new MSC Fisheries Standard (version 3.0). 

This decision followed the most comprehensive review of the MSC Fisheries Standard ever undertaken in the 25-year history of the MSC. 

Key outcomes

The new MSC Fisheries Standard includes stronger requirements to further prevent gear loss and reduce its impact, and ensure that ghost fishing is considered in every assessment.   Assessors must now explicitly consider the impact of ghost gear and ensure fisheries are implementing best practice approaches to reduce gear loss. 

Fisheries will also be required to implement effective management strategies to minimise gear loss and its impact. This includes monitoring lost gear and entanglements, implementing marking and retrieval programmes and modifying gear to include features such as biodegradable locks on pots. 

Fisheries that use Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs) are now required to demonstrate how they are avoiding the loss of FADs, and managing any loss. This includes tracking and retrieving lost FADs or demonstrating that the impact of lost FADs is low e.g. by being biodegradable or non-entangling. 

Further details on our new requirements on gear loss and ghost fishing and how they were developed can be found below. 

Read our recent Board statement to find out more.  

Implementing the new standard

We intend to publish the new MSC Fisheries Standard (version 3.0) in October 2022.

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

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 (October 2028). 

Read more about our new transition timelines for certified fisheries.  

Improving our Standard

We have revised to 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. 

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. 

Although mitigation of gear loss and ghost gear impacts were already in our Standard, these changes mean fisheries would have to consider them more fully and implement effective strategies to avoid gear loss and its impact.

 
Impact of revisions

The changes mean that impacts from ghost gear are managed in a more comprehensive and proactive way by MSC certified fisheries, which aligns with management best practice. 

This will be most significant for fisheries that are known to lose more gear such as static gear fisheries – such as gillnets and pot fisheries – and those that use Fish Aggregating Devices (FADs). In order to be certified, fisheries will 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.

Fisheries will need to account for any FADs that are lost and be able to demonstrate they are avoiding and managing this loss, for example, by tracking or retrieving them, or showing they are low impact by being non entangling and biodegradable. We expect these new requirements to result in significant changes in FAD fishing practices by many MSC certified fisheries. 

We do not expect these changes to greatly increase the length or complexity of assessments, as most fisheries are already applying measures to reduce gear loss.

For those fisheries that will need to do more to record gear loss, the data collection required for certification will also be valuable for showing fisheries management compliance needed to, for example, meet regional conservation management measures.

 

MSC Fisheries Standard Review - Impact Assessment Report - Ghost Gear (Nov 2021)
Description: MSC Fisheries Standard Review Impact Assessment Report - Ghost Gear (Nov 2021)

Language: English
Date of issue: 01 February 2022
MSC Fisheries Standard Review - Impact Assessment Report - Supporting the prevention of gear loss and ghost fishing (Jan 2021)
Description: A summary of the impact assessment undertaken for policy options developed for the project 'Supporting the prevention of gear loss and ghost fishing', which is part of the MSC’s Fisheries Standard Review.

Language: English
Date of issue: 05 February 2021

Next steps

We intend to publish the new MSC Fisheries Standard (version 3.0) in October 2022.

Implementation timeframes

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

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 (October 2028). 

Certified fisheries will still 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.     

Please note, the publication date of version 3.0 (and therefore the effective date, and deadline for recertification) may be subject to change.

Sign up to our mailing list to receive updates about the roll out of the new Standard.  

 

Developing our policies

The development of the proposed Standard follows three rounds of public consultation on key aspects of the review, including a 60-day public review of the draft Standard and all associated program 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 have also sought advice and input from our governance bodies throughout the process.

Find out more about how we develop our standards >

Governance direction

Initial policy options were presented to the MSC’s Technical Advisory Board and Stakeholder Advisory Council in December 2020 who provided advice and made recommendations to the Board of Trustees. 

In January 2021, the Board of Trustees decided the policies to be taken forward in the review. These were:

  • Implementation of a management strategy to minimise gear loss and ghost gear impact
  • Extending the definition of ghost gear

See the sections below to find out more about the different inputs that contributed to the development of our proposed policies on ghost gear.

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