What is a fishery? — Marine Stewardship Council
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What is a fishery?

What is a fishery - header

According to the definition of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), a fishery is: 

“A unit determined by an authority or other entity that is engaged in raising and/or harvesting fish. Typically, the unit is defined in terms of some or all of the following: people involved, species or type of fish, area of water or seabed, method of fishing, class of boats and purpose of the activities.”

Taking into account the many possible combinations of the above factors, what constitutes a fishery within the MSC program can vary greatly from case to case.

Anything we refer to as a ‘fishery’ is defined as such by agreement between its representative client(s) and the certification body that assesses it. This definition will usually be set at the point the fishery enters assessment, based upon what is deemed most efficient. This could be decided by scientific or commercial factors or a combination.

Examples of possible fishery types

Fishery 1:
Two or more previously unconnected fleets targeting the same fish stock
form a joint client group and become assessed as one fishery.

Fisheries 2 and 3:   
One fishery is split in two due to
commercial factors, for example where different groups of vessels within a fleet do not wish to enter assessment together. In these cases, the fishery client name will usually be included in the name of a fishery. Each fishery will include some, but not all, of the vessels fishing a stock.

Fishery 4
Several fisheries, using a number of methods and gear types, targeting multiple species are managed by the same client who prefers them to be assessed as one.

'Units of assessment' and 'Units of certification'

A fishery in the MSC program will include one or more ‘units of assessment’ and ‘units of certification’.

The unit of assessment (UoA) defines
exactly what is under assessment. If the fishery is certified, only fish from the named unit(s) of certification will be able to carry the MSC ecolabel in the marketplace.

A unit of certification is usually defined by reference to the following:
  • Target fish species and stock (including its geographic area)
  • Fishing method, gear, practice and/or vessel type
  • The fishing fleet /groups of vessels or individual fishing operators pursuing that stock including those client group members initially intended to be covered by the certificate.

A unit of assessment (UoA) is the same as defined above but may also include ‘other eligible fishers’ who might be able to also carry the MSC ecolabel if they agree to share the certificate costs with the client. 

When the certifier makes a decision about whether or not a fishery meets the MSC Fisheries Standard, it is possible that some units can pass while others fail. Only seafood from units of certification that are certified as meeting the Standard can carry the blue MSC ecolabel.

More information

For more information please contact fisheries@msc.org.

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