Reviewing Fisheries Standard Principle 1 with a focus on harvest strategies

Sustainable fish stocks are at the heart of the MSC program. Ensuring that the world’s fish stocks remain healthy is vital for marine ecosystems and global food security.

Improving our standard

Protecting fish stocks is central to of the MSC Fisheries Standard. We are currently reviewing whether our Principle 1 requirements need to change in response to advances in science or global best practice, or could be made simpler. 

Modifying existing requirements 

We want to reduce the complexity and ambiguity of the existing requirements, especially how harvest strategies are assessed. This includes providing a clear definition of ‘responsive’ harvest strategies, as this term is used in the requirements but is currently not defined. 

We want to simplify part of the Standard so it is clear how Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs) assess aspects of the harvest strategy and harvest control rules in multiple performance indicators of Principle 1.  

We are also looking to see if we need to revise the requirements that allow stocks to be scored when they are rebuilding.  

Developing new requirements  

We want to increase the number of fisheries adopting best practice harvest strategies, to  better secure the sustainability of the target stock. This has been difficult for some MSC certified fisheries, particularly those that target shared or highly migratory stocks.  

With stock boundaries likely to change as a result of climate change, it will be important to have alternate mechanisms for applying harvest strategies so MSC certified fisheries can future-proof their sustainability. 


Progress so far

Having previously commissioned a consultancy report to investigate various types of ‘responsive’ harvest strategies, we are now exploring possible new requirements that could change the intent of Principle 1.

How could the standard change?

This review could change the intent of the MSC Fisheries Standard, through the development of new requirements under Principle 1. For example, one option being considered is to allow certified fisheries to apply a harvest strategy at the level of the Unit of Assessment, rather than the level of the target stock, as it is currently.

We do not anticipate modification of the existing requirements to changes how stocks are assessed, but only ensure it is done so consistently.

Get involved


Stakeholders are at the heart of our Fisheries Standard Review, helping identify issues, develop solutions and test the possible impacts of any proposed changes. We are holding a series of stakeholder consultation events in 2020 and 2021 including virtual workshops and online surveys.

In July 2020, a virtual workshop was held on Feasibility of Principle 1 changes for existing requirements. Stakeholders were invited to provide additional input through our online form.

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