Endangered, threatened and protected species

The MSC ensures that certified fisheries allow the recovery of all endangered, threatened and protected species.

Species such as birds, turtles and marine mammals can be attracted to or disrupted by fishing vessels, putting them at risk of harm.

In fact, fisheries are the most significant human threat to marine mammals, including endangered populations. Direct impacts include entanglement in fishing gear, capture and death. Animals caught by mistake are usually referred to as bycatch or unwanted catch.

A fishery might also affect wildlife indirectly by changing migration routes or reducing food or safe habitats. Managing fishing impacts on these populations is critical if endangered animals are to survive and recover.

We are aligned with global efforts to protect endangered animals. Species listed as Vulnerable, Endangered or Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species are considered Endangered, Threatened and Protected within the MSC Fisheries Standard


MSC requirements for protecting endangered species

The MSC Fisheries Standard's Principle 2 (minimising environmental impact) covers the impact of fisheries on the environment and wildlife. MSC certified fisheries likely to encounter any endangered, threatened and protected species must carefully manage and reduce any negative interactions. They must also make sure nothing they do hinders the species' recovery.

Any impacts on endangered, threatened or protected species must be within limits set by national or international requirements. The MSC also has strict requirements in place for migratory species with a high risk of extinction and species subject to trade bans.

To make an assessment, certification bodies use information from local knowledge and scientific research. They might also look at regulatory monitoring programs, observer reports, inspections or even footage from electronic monitoring tools such as security cameras. 

The Fisheries Standard requires gear types to be assessed separately as their risks to different species vary.


Latest global efforts

To get certified fisheries often are required to reduce their impact on vulnerable species. This includes having to modify their fishing gear or make use of animal deterrents.

Many MSC certified fisheries have taken action to protect endangered species. For example, the toothfish fisheries in the Southern Ocean have effectively eliminated albatross and grey petrel bycatch through controls on fishing practices, seasonal and temporary restrictions on gear use, and requirements for real-time reporting of interactions. 

The Australian Northern prawn fishery has an observer program as part of a bycatch reduction strategy that includes both crew and scientist observers. They also use turtle exclusion devices in their nets, which have reduced turtle catch by 99%. 


Improving our Standards

We are reviewing new scientific evidence, assessing new gear technology and looking at fisheries showing leadership in this area to see whether these developments should be made global requirements in the Standard. 

In 2019, we held a global expert workshop as part of our Fisheries Standard Review to see where we could further help mitigate the threat of fishing to endangered, threatened and protected species by improving how they are defined in the Standard. We are using their expert input and guidance to evaluate how our requirements on endangered, threatened and protected species can be applied consistently across certified fisheries around the world. 


What could change?

We do not intend to change how fishery impacts are assessed against the Fisheries Standard, but we do plan to clarify the requirements in the Fisheries Standard around protecting endangered, threatened and protected species. Making our intentions clearer may make it a little harder for some fisheries to meet the requirements in the MSC Standard, but it will also be easier for them to see what improvements they need to make to stay sustainable.

We also want to ensure that sensitive populations are consistently assigned as endangered, threatened or protected so that certified fisheries allow these species to recover and thrive.

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 endangered, threatened and protected species requirements please email us at standards@msc.org.

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