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. These life history traits, coupled with a high demand for shark products such as shark fins, meat and jaws, puts them at a high risk of over-fishing.

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 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).

Following the release of Fisheries Certification Process v2.2 in September 2020, any company or fisher convicted of shark finning, and any vessel implicated in conviction, will not be eligible for MSC certification for at least two years. In addition, 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 vessel. Further details on the process and the MSC's intent for these requirements are provided in our recent interpretation


Latest global efforts

As part of our Fisheries Standard Review, we are looking to see if management best practices related to preventing shark finning have advanced since the current Fisheries Standard requirements were set. One such management best practice is the application of a ‘fins naturally attached’ policy, which requires the whole shark to be landed, not just its fins. 

We recently commissioned an independent review of the global uptake of 'fins naturally attached' policies.  The review investigated the implementation of shark finning bans in the 43 nations that catch the largest amount of sharks. 

Of the 43 shark fishing nations reviewed:

  • 21 have a finning ban in place
  • 19 have a fins naturally attached policy in place
  • Four only apply conservation and management measures set by Regional Fisheries Management Organisations
  • Nine have no finning bans
  • Nine are unknown or unverifiable

Improving our Standards

Every few years we review the MSC Standards so they remain relevant. This allows us to incorporate widely accepted new science and fisheries management best practice, as well as improve  implementation and address stakeholder concerns. 

Find out how the Fisheries Standard Review aims to identify further solutions to ensure MSC certified fisheries are not involved in shark finning.

Stakeholders from all sectors are at the heart of our review, helping identify issues, develop solutions and test proposed changes. Find out more about opportunities to get involved in reviewing our Standards.  

Find out more

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Improving fisheries management

The MSC seeks to reward best practice in fisheries management and to support fisheries that are working to improve their management systems.

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Endangered, threatened and protected species

The MSC ensures that certified fisheries allow the recovery of any Endangered, Threatened and Protected species.

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A pile of tangled fishing gear

Preventing lost gear and abandoned fishing gear (ghost fishing)

The MSC aims to reduce ghost fishing by rewarding fisheries that avoid gear loss and minimise waste.

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