Reviewing the Risk Based Framework

We want to make sure that all fisheries that are well-managed and sustainable can become certified, even if they do not have all the data usually used in assessments.

We want to provide data-limited fisheries with the tools they need to assess the impact of their activities.

Our Risk-Based Framework (RBF) can be used for different performance indicators across the Fisheries Standard. This includes a precautionary approach to estimating stock status for fisheries that do not have data to assess the impact of a fishery on target species and on factors such as bycatch and habitats. The RBF can be used in fisheries that do not have conventional data, including reference points, derived from models such as analytical stock assessments.

Improving our Standard

We are currently reviewing how the Risk Based Framework (RBF) helps data-limited fisheries enter the program and whether this is the most effective approach.

Risk-based approaches are key in the assessment of out-of-scope species (those that cannot be targeted under Principle 1, such as birds and mammals) as there is often less data available to determine the impact that fishing has on them.

Our intent is to deliver robust, precautionary and consistent outcomes in RBF assessments. While this intent is not changing, we have identified areas where the RBF may need improvements in order to better deliver it, as in the case of out-of-scope species. We have also identified areas where the RBF requirements could be made clearer and more streamlined in order to deliver more consistent outcomes.

We are also continuing our work to increase accessibility of the Fisheries Standard through the potential inclusion of further risk-based approaches and assessment tools to facilitate data-limited assessments in the future.

How could the Standard change

This review could lead to a change in requirements and guidance of the MSC Fisheries Standard, as we have identified areas where the Standard could be made clearer. This includes removing redundant requirements around the Risk-Based Framework.

This may include changes to attributes being evaluated and risk thresholds applied for assessing out-of-scope species such as seabirds and marine mammals within Principle 2.

Our intentions in the standard to deliver robust, precautionary and consistent outcomes in assessments will not change.

Proposed revisions to the Standard

Policy options proposing changes to the Fisheries Standard have been developed following, independent 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 decided which policies will be taken forward in the review. The policies are detailed below:

Introducing a tailored Productivity Susceptibility Analysis
A tailored Productivity Susceptibility Analysis (PSA) may be developed to assess the impact of a fishery on out-of-scope species such as seabirds and mammals. This would include adapting attribute descriptions in the PSA to ensure more precautionary and consistent application of the requirements.

This aims to ensure the Risk Based Framework delivers precautionary and robust assessment outcomes for out-of-scope species. 

Clarification of requirements and guidance 
Language could be clarified to ensure the assessment of key low trophic level stocks are consistent and precautionary.

Language could also be clarified for trigger requirements, which describe when the Risk Based Framework should be used.  

View our impact assessment report - 'Ensuring the Risk-Based Framework continues to deliver consistent assessments for data-limited fisheries'


Progress so far

Fisheries Standard Toolbox
We are developing a new Fisheries Standard Toolbox. this will contain requirements and guidance for tools that can aid the assessment of data-limited fisheries. In addition to new tools that are currently in development, the toolbox will house the Risk-Based Framework, which we intend to fully separate from the Standard and Process documents.

Reviewing the Risk-Based Framework
We investigated if the Risk-Based Framework is fit for purpose and consistent in its delivery. This focused on the outcomes delivered when assessing impact on out-of-scope species and dynamic stocks (such as low trophic level species). Results suggest that changes to our requirements and guidance are needed to deliver more robust outcomes.

Results from an investigation showed that the Productivity Susceptibility Analysis (PSA) attributes are not always appropriate for use in assessments of out-of-scope species. In some cases, this could mean scoring is not as precautionary as it should be.

Read the report on the MSC Productivity Susceptibility Analysis for Out-of-Scope Species review

We also calibrated the assessment of low trophic level stocks against the requirements for the Risk-Based Framework. This demonstrated that the Framework is delivering precautionary assessment outcomes, however there is scope to clarify some of the existing RBF requirement language in relation to assessments of P1 stocks. 

This analysis of the Risk-Based Framework suggests that changes are needed to our requirements and guidance to deliver more robust, consistent and precautionary outcomes aligned with MSC’s intent.



Next steps

We will refine the proposed revisions to our Standard throughout 2021.

We will seek expert advice through targeted consultations with specialist stakeholders to further develop and test the proposed changes described above.  

Following consultation, we will carry out further testing and refinement to make sure the Risk-Based Framework remains a precautionary and robust assessment tool for use in MSC fisheries assessments. 

At the end of 2021 the proposed revisions 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.

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

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