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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.

Fisheries improve significantly as they stay in the program.

The graph below shows the distribution of scores from all currently certified fisheries that have completed at least two full assessments against the MSC Fisheries Standard – typically this reflects changes over five years. For all three principles there is a statistically significant improvement between the average (median) score when they join the program and at the end of the first certification period. 

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 25 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 March2023, MSC certified fisheries had recorded over 2,225 different improvements.

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

Improvements by MSC certified fisheries over the last three years: 437


improvements benefitting endangered, threatened and protected species, and reducing bycatch


improvements benefitting stock  status and harvest strategies


improvements benefitting fishery management, governance and policy


improvements benefitting  ecosystems and habitats 

Case studies

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Our collective impact

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.

Monitoring our impact

Monitoring our impact

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

Ocean Stewardship Fund

Ocean Stewardship Fund

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