How MSC Certified fisheries are improving

Fisheries don’t stop improving once they become MSC certified. They make a long-term commitment to sustainability and to keep up with global best practice.

To be certified as sustainable, fisheries must score an average of at least 80 out of 100 for each of the MSC Fisheries Standard’s three principles: sustainable stocks, environmental impacts and effective management.

Average scores of fisheries increase significantly between their initial certification and when they are reassessed, after five years.

The graph below shows fisheries that have completed two assessments. As of 2020, 119 fisheries have been in the program long enough to be assessed twice. Dots represent individual fisheries’ scores, with the boxes showing the range that most fisheries scores are in. The x and horizontal bar are the mean and median average respectively.

Graph showing pattern of average improvements in scoring for MSC certified fisheries over time

How does the MSC drive sustainability?

Each principle of the Fisheries Standard is made up of 28 indicators. If a certified fishery scores less than 80/100 on an individual indicator, it will be set a ‘condition of certification’ by the independent assessor. The fishery must then implement a plan of action to make improvements that will bring it up to global best practice. If conditions are not met within the certification period (usually 5 years), the fishery is suspended from the MSC program.

Over 95% of certified fisheries have successfully completed at least one condition. Conditions drive continual improvement towards global best practice in fisheries sustainability.

What improvements have been made?

Completing one condition can lead to a wide range of improvements. By 2020, MSC certified fisheries had recorded 1,751 different improvements from 1,267 conditions. 

Sometimes, one action produces multiple improvements. For example, modifying gear types could reduce bycatch of a range of species.

From 2017 to 2019, MSC certified fisheries made 384 improvements, including:

White silhouette icon of a turtle on blue background126 improvements benefiting endangered, threatened and protected species and bycatch
Icon of fishing net with fish inside on blue background111 improvements benefiting stock status and harvest strategies
White fish with box and tick icon on blue background75 improvements benefiting fishery management, governance and policy
White coral icon on blue background72 improvements benefiting ecosystems and habitats

Case studies

Shark icon

Tuna fishery works to reduce bycatch

How the island nation of Fiji is leading the way in reducing accidental catch in longline tuna fisheries.

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Shrimp icon

Pink shrimp fishery uses LED lights on nets

The Oregon and Washington pink shrimp fishery off the west coast of the USA is working to protect a lesser-known fish.

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Coral icon

Squat lobster fishery uses new science

A Chilean squat lobster fishery has been working with researchers to map its fishing grounds and better understand its impacts on deep sea habitats and ecosystems.

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Collaboration helps secure Barents Sea cod stocks

North East Arctic cod and haddock thrive in the Barents Sea due to good management and international collaboration.

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A flock of seagulls flying over the ocean and in front of a fishing vessel (far right)

Our collective impact

For 20 over years fisheries, scientists, consumers and industry have been part of a collective effort to make sure our oceans are fished sustainably.

Read about impacts
Monitoring and Evaluation 500 x 500

Monitoring our impact

The MSC monitoring and evaluation program works to understand the environmental and social impacts of the MSC.

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Ocean Stewardship Fund

The MSC's Ocean Stewardship Fund offers grants to certified sustainable fisheries, improving fisheries and fisheries investing in scientific research.

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