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MSC Board of Trustees unanimously approves new Fisheries Standard

New version will ensure MSC-certified fisheries continue to be recognised as global leaders in sustainability 

After a comprehensive four-year review, involving over 1,000 stakeholders and significant scientific research, the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) Board of Trustees has unanimously approved the new version of its Fisheries Standard, hailing it as a ‘major achievement’.  

539 fisheries are currently certified to the Standard, representing 16% of wild marine catch, making it the largest sustainable fishing programme in the world. The influence of the MSC Fisheries Standard extends far beyond this, with its requirements used globally as a framework for those seeking to improve ocean sustainability.

The review involved the most extensive consultation ever undertaken by the organisation – including fisheries, scientists, assessors, environmental NGOs and industry representatives.  It addressed some of the most difficult issues facing the ocean, including protecting marine biodiversity, incentivising stronger ocean governance, whilst providing tools to expand accessibility of the MSC’s market-based sustainability programme to small-scale and emerging market fisheries.  

The significant improvements approved by the Board will ensure that MSC-certified fisheries continue to be recognised as world leaders in sustainability, helping to drive progress towards achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, including the target of ending overfishing. As the new Standard is rolled out and implementation begins, MSC experts will be making available a full programme of training and guidance to support fisheries and assessors apply the new requirements.

In a statement issued by the MSC’s Board of Trustees on Friday 24th June 2022, its Chairman, Dr Werner Kiene, said: “We would like to thank all of those who have contributed to this review – in particular, the MSC’s scientists who led this extensive, complex review with great dedication and expertise, as well members of our governance bodies from all parts of the world, who have generously given their time and knowledge to shape this new Standard. We recognise the value of this exceptional work.  The Board is keenly aware of the importance of the MSC Fisheries Standard, and its role in driving change in our ocean. While there are sometimes competing views of what should be in the Standard and where the bar is set, we strongly believe that this new version strikes the right balance between setting a high ambition for sustainability with the need to make sure that the requirements are practical for the best performing fisheries around the world to implement over appropriate transition timelines.” 

Rupert Howes, Chief Executive of the MSC said: “I am profoundly grateful for the enormous amount of stakeholder engagement and input over four years and for the dedication and hard work undertaken by MSC’s Governance Bodies that has enable MSC’s Board of Trustees to approve the new standard.  On the eve of the United Nations Ocean Conference in Lisbon the world’s attention is increasingly focusing on the critical need to ensure our ocean resources are managed sustainably, for this and future generations. MSC’s new Fisheries Standard will deliver real benefits and contribute to accelerating the delivery of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals through the continued engagement and support of our partners. This is good news for the ocean, fishers and consumers.”      

The improvements include:  

  • A new approach to protect endangered, threatened or protected species. Fisheries will be expected to minimise their impacts on such species to help their population recover.  
  • A Fins Naturally Attached policy will be mandatory in all fisheries that retain sharks. These measures will strengthen the existing ban on shark-finning in MSC-certified fisheries.  
  • Some existing requirements have been stream-lined with the objective of making assessments more efficient and improvements in methods to aid data-limited fisheries, will improve accessibility. 
  • New measures for multi-jurisdictional fisheries, managed by RFMOs, to secure credible, robust harvest strategies.  
  • New evidence requirements will ensure that fisheries - especially those operating on the high seas with unwanted catch that includes, for example, marine birds – will have to produce stronger proof of how they are managing their impacts. 

The new version of the Standard will be published in October 2022. Fisheries entering assessment for the first time will apply the new Standard from May 2023.  While certified fisheries have a maximum of six years – a reduction of the previous transition time - to adjust their practises to meet the new Standard.   


Notes for editors 

The MSC’s Board of Trustees is the governing body of the MSC. It is comprised of 15 internationally renowned experts in retail, marine science, conservation, government and fisheries management. Its membership reflects the broad mix of stakeholders who have a stake in the MSC’s mission.  

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an international non-profit organisation which sets globally recognised, science-based standards for sustainable fishing and the seafood supply chain. The MSC ecolabel and certification program recognises and rewards sustainable fishing practices and is helping create a more sustainable seafood market. It is the only wild-capture fisheries certification and ecolabelling program that meets best practice requirements set by both the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) and ISEAL, the global membership association for sustainability standards.  

For further information, or to arrange an interview with an MSC spokesperson, contact:  

Karen Attwood, Senior PR Manager UK & Ireland: [email protected]