Certified fisheries improving

We monitor the progress and improvements of MSC certified fisheries around the world as part of our global impact reporting. Our 2019 analysis focuses on the improvements MSC certified fisheries have made to reduce environmental impacts.



How we monitor improvements

While fisheries must be performing at a high level to get certified, there is often room for improvement on specific points. If Independent certification bodies find areas the fishery can improve on, they issue it a ‘condition of certification’.

What is a condition of certification?

Conditions are improvements that a fishery must make within their five-year certification period to meet best practice and maintain certification. Through the conditions process we drive continual improvement towards global best practice in fisheries sustainability.  

If a fishery does not make the improvements that are set out in a condition, they will be suspended from the MSC program.

Continuing positive change after certification

Fisheries must make these improvements to maintain certification. In fact, 92% of certified fisheries have successfully completed a condition and improved their practices.  

A completed condition means a fishery's score meets best practice on specific performance indicators as measured by the three Principles of the MSC Fisheries Standard.

Closing a condition may have several positive impacts and benefit multiple species.

How many conditions have fisheries completed?

Between 2016 and 2018, MSC certified fisheries completed 288 conditions.

Chart showing MSC certified fisheries 288 conditions of certification
143 conditions relate to Principle 2 of the Fisheries Standard: minimising environmental impact. 
We have recorded these conditions in four main categories:






endangered, threatened and protected species (ETP)


ecosytem structure and function

What actions did fisheries take to minimise environmental impact?

Icon illustrations showing research actions, technical actions and assessments of fishery impact

MSC certified fisheries funded or participated in 65 new scientific research projects, including mapping the sea floor.

MSC certified fisheries have taken 24 technical actions.  Among these are gear modifications for reducing bycatch and the creation of new marine protected areas (MPAs).

54 assessments of fishery impact were completed.  Among these assessments is the mapping of fisheries' pathways. This mapping enables researchers to compare a fishing area with nearby habitats and measure the fishing impact.


What are the benefits of fisheries' improvements?

An improvement is the result of an action taken by a fishery to close a condition. Sometimes, one action produces multiple improvements. For example, closing an area to fishing could impact several species.

The MSC’s Strategic Research team has analysed fisheries' improvements since 2016 to test the benefits. They found:

16 improvements benefitted marine mammals

Dolphin, porpoise, whale, seal and sea lion silhouettes graphic

33 improvements benefitted sharks and rays

Ray, shark, skate silhouette icons

9 improvements benefitted marine reptiles

Sea snake, terrapin, turtle silhouette icons

44 improvements benefitted habitats

Bryozoa, corals, mussel, sandbank, scallop silhouette icons

36 improvements benefitted seabirds

Albatross, boobie, eider, guillemot, pelican, petrel and shearwater silhouettes icons

Actions have global impacts

Each dot on the map represents a fishery that is engaged with the MSC program. Below we have highlighted improvements made by four MSC certified fisheries. 
World map illustration with dots showing MSC engaged fisheries

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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Fish shoal icon

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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Global Impacts Update

Read our Global Impacts Update 2019, which showcases the progress and improvements delivered by certified fisheries around the world.

Read the report
GIR 2019 supplementary methods
Description: An overview of the methodology used to create the 2019 fisheries improving update.

Language: English
Date of issue: 06 June 2019
Date effective: 06 June 2019

Read more

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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Fisher standing in a boat throwing a net with the sun shining in the background

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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