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.

Effective management is the foundation of a sustainable fishery. 

Fisheries must control the fishing pressure put on any fish stock to ensure it can be fished sustainably in the long term. They must also protect the environment and secure the livelihoods of fishers.  

Sustainable fisheries should be governed in a fair and transparent manner, with clear objectives that guide decision making in the short and long term. 

Effective monitoring, control and surveillance need to be at the heart of any fishery management system. There also need to be clear systems in place that enforce these management rules. 

The MSC requirements for fisheries management

The way in which a fishery is governed, and the management system it has in place, is assessed under Principle 3 of the MSC Fisheries Standard (effective fisheries management).

When fisheries are assessed, the certification body checks that:

  • An effective legal or customary framework is in place that recognises the rights of people dependent on fishing for food and livelihoods
  • Management objectives are consistent with the Fisheries Standard
  • There are effective consultation and decision-making processes in place
  • The is a system in place to effectively enforce management rules
  • The performance of the management system is evaluated

Latest global efforts

Surveillance technology has advanced significantly in recent years, with fisheries managers increasingly make use of surveillance tools.

Satellite tracking of vessels now allows fishery managers to detect suspicious and illegal fishing activity even in the most remote parts of the ocean. Electronic monitoring – the use of cameras and sensors installed on board fishing vessels – is also revolutionising the way fishery managers can observe activities at sea.

This allows managers to make better informed decisions and means best practice in monitoring, control and surveillance is evolving.

Improving our Standards

We're working to ensure that global best practice in monitoring, control and surveillance systems is reflected in the Fisheries Standard, and that our requirements are clear and applied consistently. 

We are reviewing the accessibility of Principle 3 (effective fisheries management) to make sure it does not pose a barrier to small-scale fisheries or those from the developing world. This could be because the bar is set too high or because the scoring guideposts aren't clear.

We are also considering what kinds of evidence is needed to demonstrate that a fishery is meeting a scoring guidepost and how transparent this is to stakeholders. 

What could change?

Some Performance Indicators within Principle 3 (effective fisheries management) of the Standard may be restructured to ensure that the requirements for what is best practice are clearer. We may also improve the wording of some of the scoring issues to make the requirements easier to understand.

We hope this will provide clear goals that fisheries can work towards and help certification bodies around the world deliver consistent outcomes in assessments.

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 fisheries management requirements please email us at

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Working with mixed fisheries

The MSC is working towards making the MSC program more accessible for mixed fisheries.

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Ending shark finning

The MSC is committed to playing its part to help eliminate shark finning.

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The Fisheries Standard Review

Every five years we initiate a review of our Fisheries Standard, addressing issues raised and incorporating new science and management best practice.

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