Skip to main content

The MSC is making changes to Version 3 of its Fisheries Standard to ensure it delivers the intended changes on the water.

The MSC Fisheries Standard (Version 3) was published in October 2022 following a comprehensive four-year review. However, feedback from our stakeholders, including independent assessors and fishery representatives, highlighted aspects of our Standard that are unclear and overly complex. 

It is crucial we address these issues to ensure the MSC program continues to drive real and lasting progress towards ending overfishing. 

In order to make changes, we announced in January 2024 that fisheries would be allowed more time to use Version 2.01 of the Fisheries Standard. Version 2.01 remains a leading measure of fisheries sustainability, as benchmarked by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative.

Changes will be made to the MSC Fisheries Standard Version 3 and Fisheries Standard Toolbox Version 1.1. The toolbox contains procedures to support fisheries assessments.

The changes will be made via two distinct phases:

 

  1. Amending our requirements in Version 3 to clarify technical issues
  2. A wider review, including the MSC Fisheries Standard Toolbox Version 1.1. The toolbox review will comprise an external evaluation of the new Evidence Requirements Framework and a review of the Risk-Framework. The wider review also includes an external evaluation of the process that led to Version 3 and recommendations for simplifying the structure of the Standard and the Standard-setting process going forward. It will also identify and address any further problems

Amending technical issues

In June 2024, the MSC Board of Trustees approved a package of amendments to the Standard and Toolbox.

These amendments address issues relating to the way our requirements were written, which was causing inconsistencies and lack of clarity during assessments and testing.

The amendments do not alter the level of performance required to meet our Standard and many of the new requirements introduced in Version 3 have not changed.

The updated Standard (version 3.1) and Toolbox (version 1.2) will be published on Monday 22 July 2024. They will supersede the previous versions and be available for use immediately.

Read a summary of the amendments

MSC Fisheries Standard v3.1 Summary of Amendments June 2024
Description: This document contains a summary of key amendments. An updated version of our Standard (3.1) will be published on 22 July 2024.
Language: English
Date of issue: 25 June 2024
Download download file PDF - 4 MB

Developing the amendments

To ensure the updated version of the Standard is effective, the amended requirements were tested by independent assessors and Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs): third-party auditors who carry out independent assessments against our Standard.

The amendments were also reviewed by Assurance Services International, the independent organisation that provides oversight of CABs, to ensure they were clear and could be audited.

Reviewing the MSC Fisheries Standard Toolbox

We are reviewing the procedures which support assessments against our Standard, following feedback that some of the procedures are overly complex.

There are two components to the Toolbox review:

 

  1. External evaluation of the Evidence Requirements Framework (led by a panel of fisheries assessment experts)
  2. The Risk-Based Framework

The Toolbox review could change the level of performance required for fisheries to meet our Standard. As such, we will consult our stakeholders on the proposed changes. 

The Toolbox review will begin in July 2024 and is due to be completed within two years.

Find out more about the Toolbox Review

A review of the MSC Fisheries Standard Toolbox will begin in July 2024 to ensure that key procedures developed to support fisheries assessments are effective.
Find out more about the Toolbox Review

Transitioning to the updated Standard

Fisheries can choose to be assessed against Version 3.1 of our Standard. However, in recognition of the amendments and the ongoing wider review, fisheries have been given more time before they are required to adopt the updated version of our Standard.

  • Most new entrants can use Version 2.01 until July 2026.
  • Existing certified fisheries have until November 2030 to adopt the updated version of the Standard. 

While we expect the work to be completed within this timeframe, the deadlines may be extended, dependent on review outcomes and any required modifications.  

The derogation does not apply to fisheries that have chosen to apply Section SE early (primarily tuna fisheries managed by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations). Such fisheries have been given longer to close conditions of certification relating to harvest strategies and harvest control rules on the basis that they adopt Version 3.1 requirements at their next reassessment.

Find out more about Section SE and the impact of the amendments for tuna fisheries.