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.

Improving our Standard

Our Standards include criteria for assessing how fisheries are preventing ghost fishing. These criteria assess ghost gear impacts indirectly. Concerns have been raised by both the MSC and stakeholders that the implicit way current criteria handle this issue does not encourage fisheries to adopt effective strategies to prevent gear loss and ghost fishing. It could also lead to inconsistent assessment outcomes.

We want to make sure that Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) are assessing the impact of ghost fishing on marine life consistently and correctly. We therefore want to clarify the requirements for ghost fishing within the MSC Fisheries Standard.

In recent years there have been advances in best practice management, such as the release of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) voluntary guidelines on marking fishing gear to reduce the risk of abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear. We aim to align the requirements in the Fisheries Standard with the latest in best practice management, with a focus on gear loss avoidance strategies and mitigation actions in MSC certified fisheries.

How could the Standard change?

The changes proposed in the review could lead to a change in intent of the MSC Fisheries Standard. This means there could be changes to outcomes delivered by changes in requirements.

In practice, this could mean that fisheries will have to demonstrate how they are reducing the impact of gear loss and ghost fishing. The improvement options proposed could increase the rigour of how fisheries are assessed in terms of ghost gear, and lead to increased transparency in the assessment process. We will ensure that assessors have the tools and guidance they need to effectively assess a fishery.

Proposed revisions to the Standard

Policy options proposing changes to the Fisheries Standard have been developed following stakeholder consultations, desk-based research and impact assessments. The 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 made a decision as to which policies will be taken forward in the review. The policies are detailed below:

Implementation of a management strategy to minimise gear loss and ghost gear impact
Fisheries may be required to implement a strategy to minimise gear loss and the impact of ghost fishing on the environment, including on the target fishery. The strategy should be informed by best practice. We intend to provide a number of examples of best practice via new guidance. 

Extending the definition of ghost gear
The definition of ghost gear may be extended to include lost, abandoned and discarded fish aggregating devices (FADs), resulting in a change in application of the Fisheries Standard. This will strengthen the auditability of fisheries and set clear expectations for fisheries, such as tuna fisheries, using these devices. 

Stakeholders provided feedback on the proposed revisions throughout May and June 2021. Find out more about the consultation.

Download the impact assessment report below detailing the positive and negative impacts associated with the proposed changes.

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

Progress so far

Stakeholder consultations

2021

We held a public consultation on the proposed revisions to our Standard in May and June 2021. Stakeholders provided feedback through an online survey, which was available on our website for 30 days. 

Download the consultation document below to find out more about the proposed revisions and focus of the survey. 

MSC Fisheries Standard Review - Ghost Gear - consultation document - May 2021
Description: Consultation document for the MSC Fisheries Standard Review 2021 consultation survey on 'Supporting the prevention of gear loss and ghost fishing'.

Language: English
Date of issue: 18 May 2021

 

Consultation summary report

We have published a summary report from the consultation, which contains an overview of the project, feedback received and a descriptive analysis of the participating stakeholder groups.

Download the summary report from the 2021 consultation on 'Supporting the prevention of gear loss and ghost fishing'

MSC Fisheries Standard Review - Ghost Gear consultation summary report - June 2021
Description: Summary report from MSC Fisheries Standard Review public consultation on 'Preventing gear loss and ghost fishing' (June 2021).

Language: English
Date of issue: 19 August 2021

2020

In June 2020 we held three virtual workshops on the topic of 'Preventing gear loss and ghost fishing'. Participants could also provide input through an online survey.  

We also held a series of workshops on the topic of ‘Introducing requirements on the type and quality of evidence needed for scoring fisheries’, which discussed gear loss and ghost fishing. 

We have published a consultation summary report, which includes transcripts from the workshops and survey feedback and a descriptive analysis of attendees. Commercially sensitive and personal details have been redacted. Please note that the report does not contain details of policy direction. 

Download the summary report from the June 2020 consultation below.

MSC Fisheries Standard Review consultation summary report (October 2020) - Supporting the prevention of gear loss and ghost fishing
Description: MSC Fisheries Standard Review consultation summary report (October 2020) - Supporting the prevention of gear loss and ghost fishing

Language: English
Date of issue: 29 October 2020

Prior to 2020, we also held workshops with assessors on how existing fishery assessments consider the impact of ghost gear and mitigation. Consultation with our stakeholders at international events has also increased our understanding of how ghost gear is currently being assessed and how best practice is evolving.

Identifying methods of best practice

We also carried out benchmarking exercises to identify methods of best practice that are currently being implemented or developed by other global sustainability organisations, such as the FAO , the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Maritime Organisation (IMO).

We also investigated best practice as used by different regional and national fishery authorities and that being developed by NGO initiatives (e.g. through the Global Ghost Gear Initiative), including methods featured in other fishery standards.

Next steps

We are analysing the data gathered from the consultation and carrying out pilot tests of proposed revisions to make sure they achieve the expected outcomes and can be effectively audited during a fishery assessment.  

By the end of 2021, we will have developed options for all projects in the review and will have drafted a revised Standard, which will be reviewed by our Technical Advisory Board, Stakeholder Advisory Council and Board of Trustees.

Reviewing the proposed revisions

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.

Sign up to our Fisheries Standard Review mailing list to receive updates about the review, engagement events and consultations.


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