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MSC addresses ongoing impact of Covid-19 with temporary requirements for audits and conditions

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has announced today it is continuing some of the measures it introduced a year ago in response to the Covid-19 pandemic to support producers and suppliers of certified sustainable seafood while maintaining the integrity of its certification programmes.   

Temporary requirements introduced last year helped MSC certified businesses maintain credible performance dealing with unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic. These changes to the MSC’s requirements (referred to as derogations), did not change the standards the MSC sets for protecting fish stocks and the environment, but provided alternative ways for fishers' and suppliers' performance to be assessed.

The MSC has extended the use of remote audits until 28 March 2022, but only if it is required because of Covid-19 restrictions or health concerns. The MSC expects independent assessors to resume on-site visits where possible, with extra reviews remaining in place for initial assessments not carried out in person.  

Many MSC certified fisheries continue to deliver improvements in their performance. In recognition of the unique challenge posed by Covid-19 restrictions, the time to complete improvements related to actions or decisions by external management agencies will be extended by 12 months. During that time period, fisheries will still need to continue to meet the MSC Fisheries Standard. This does not change the length of any certificates, with fisheries still needing to be reassessed at the scheduled time to stay certified.  

Supply chain businesses that need to be audited for the risk of forced or child labour can proceed with an audit through a recognised labour program or complete a detailed self-assessment instead. The MSC is allowing extra time as labour audits usually need to be done in-person. If certificate holders choose the self-assessment route, they will give the MSC the right to commission an independent labour audit of their sites. Reports will be due at their next annual audit scheduled after the 28 May 2021. 

George Clark, MSC Programme Director, UK & Ireland, said: “As the world enters a second year of dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic, we acknowledge the efforts of our fishery and supply chain partners to continue to operate under difficult circumstances.  

“Travel restrictions, temporary business closures and other Covid-19 restrictions are disrupting the work of the seafood industry in many countries. At the same time, the MSC is keen to ensure consumers can continue to trust that MSC certified products are sustainable.  

“We are confident that by continuing to work together with partners in responding to the pandemic, we are securing sustainable seafood and thriving oceans for generations to come.” 

The new derogations come into effect on 27 March 2021.

Read more about the MSC and its response to the coronavirus pandemic.