Ending shark finning

The MSC is committed to playing its part in eliminating shark finning.

Sharks are slow-growing, long-living fish that produce few offspring. This puts them at high risk of overfishing. A high demand for shark products such as shark fins, meat and jaws makes them even more vulnerable. 

More than 30% of all known shark and shark relatives are threatened with extinction, according to the UN. 

Shark finning is the cruel practice of removing fins from a shark and then throwing the rest of the body back into the sea, often while the fish is still alive. It is prohibited within MSC certified fisheries.

The MSC requirements for shark finning

MSC certified fisheries are among the best managed in the world. By meeting our requirements they are demonstrating international standards of best practice in monitoring, management and environmental protection. They also show leadership in addressing the issue of shark finning. 

The MSC Fisheries Standard requires certification bodies to assess the likelihood that any vessel in a fishery is engaged in shark finning. This is part of the scoring for both Principle 1 (sustainable stocks) and Principle 2 (minimising environmental impact).

From September 2020, the vessel of any company or fisher convicted of shark finning will not be eligible for MSC certification for at least two years. If evidence of shark finning is detected during an audit or assessment, a fishery will face suspension unless it can show the offending vessel has been expelled from the certificate. This means that a whole fleet does not have to lose its MSC certified status because of the actions of one member.


Latest global efforts

We are looking to see if management best practices related to preventing shark finning have advanced since the current Fisheries Standard requirements were set. This includes investigating the global uptake of 'Fins Naturally Attached' policies, which require the whole shark to be landed, not just its fins.   

We recently conducted a survey of global fishery managers and governments to see if there has been progress in science and management of shark finning that could be used to update our Standard. Out of 25 management agencies that responded, 14 (56%) had a Fins Naturally Attached policy.


Improving our Standards

We are investigating if global best practice in regulation and management designed to prevent shark finning has evolved enough to warrant us revising the Fisheries Standard.

Our Fisheries Standard Review is looking to make sure we have the right incentives for fisheries seeking certification to actively improve their efforts to prevent shark finning. We are also checking that our current shark finning requirements deliver the needed confidence that shark finning is not occurring in an MSC certified fishery.


What could change?

The requirements and guidance of the Fisheries Standard could be restructured. Potential changes could include changing our information and evidence requirements for verifying that shark finning is not occurring.

Any changes will be in line with current global best practice both for management and identification or monitoring of shark finning.

We will not change the intentions of the Fisheries Standard, which are to ensure that shark finning does not occur within MSC certified fisheries.



When would changes to the Standard happen?

If any part of the Standard is revised, a new version will be released in March 2022.The MSC Board of Trustees will make the final decision on implementation of any change, with the development process set out in the Fisheries Standard Review.

Get involved

To be notified when consultation opens, please register your interest in the Fisheries Standard Review. Information about future events, such as targeted consultations and workshops, will also be posted here.

For other questions on shark finning requirements please email us at standards@msc.org.

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