Current research

Scientists at the MSC collaborate with researchers from around the world.

Our research collaborations

The MSC shows scientific leadership by developing strong links with external science researchers through collaborative initiatives.


The MSC and the United Nations

Recognised and accredited by the United Nations as a major stakeholder group, the MSC has a part to play in global discussions on healthy oceans and sustainable fishing.

Data from the MSC is used by the UN Environment Programme and other intergovernmental organisations to track progress towards international goals to end overfishing and protect biodiversity.

The Sustainable Development Goals

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are 17 goals to end poverty, protect the planet, and ensure prosperity for all. The MSC contributes to many of these goals, including:

  • SDG 14  reverse the decline in the health of our oceans
  • SDG 2 end hunger and ensure food security
  • SDG 8 – provide decent work and economic growth
  • SDG 12 – promote sustainable consumption and production
  • SDG 17 – strengthen global partnerships for sustainable development

Read the MSC’s voluntary commitment to ocean health from the UN Ocean Conference 2017.

The global indicator produced through the MSC’s monitoring and evaluation is a valuable tool for understanding progress towards sustainable fisheries.

United Nations Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre

Seabed habitats

Innovation in managing impacts on habitats

The research challenge

The latest MSC Fisheries Standard (version 2.0) has new rules that ensure stronger protection for habitats. Fisheries now need to show there is no serious or irreversible harm on habitats from their fishing activities. To do this, they need to understand how their activities impact the seabed.  

The solution

Researchers are creating a software tool that will help us understand the impacts of fishing gear and vessels. The software tool will be used by fishery assessment bodies. It will draw on available habitat data and identify the combinations of habitat and fishing gear types that lead to serious damage – damage that takes more than 20 years for the habitat to recover.

Who benefits?

Fisheries will be able to use this tool to understand and manage their habitat impacts. This is necessary for protecting sponges, corals and other rare sea floor species and habitats.

Research partners: Bangor University

For more information on this project please contact Shaun McLennan, Fisheries Assessment Manager.

Helping data-limited fisheries

The research challenge

It’s difficult for many artisanal and developing world fisheries to collect the scientific data they need to be assessed against the MSC Fisheries Standard.

The MSC has developed a Risk-Based Framework that combines expert judgement with semi-quantitative methods to score fisheries against the MSC Standard. Many other more quantitative data-limited methods exist, but it’s not straightforward to apply them to the MSC Standard. This project considers how data-limited methods can be used by assessment bodies to fit with the Fisheries Standard and be auditable. These considerations include consistent documentation and reporting templates, mechanisms for peer review, increased research and knowledge of the performance of these data-limited methods and a consistent way to calculate uncertainty of fish stocks’ status and harvest strategies.  

The solution

In partnership with The Nature Conservancy and the National Resource Defense Council, the MSC is leading analytical research and field tests to develop a decision-support tool and a user-friendly, fishery simulation tool. These will help fisheries understand their options and choose a data-limited assessment approach that has the best chance of helping them to meet sustainability requirements, at the same time as helping certifiers determine how to score them.  

Who benefits?

Small-scale fisheries employ about 90% of the world's capture fishers and are often not able to obtain good data about their fishery. By developing data-limited methodologies we hope to contribute to this evolving research area and support Fishery Improvement Projects around the world.

Research partners: The Nature Conservancy, National Resource Defense Council  

Funders: David & Lucille Packard foundation, Walton Family foundation

For more information on this project please contact Katie Longo, Senior Scientist.

Monitoring socio-economic impacts

The research challenge

The impact of the MSC program on environmental sustainability is an established area of research. However, the social and economic effects that occur as a result of certification are less well understood. Although there are some published studies on this topic and lots of anecdotal information from workers on the ground, it is difficult to know whether these observations can be generalised without doing a balanced and rigorous program-wide study. This research will help us to understand the positive, negative, direct and indirect consequences of the MSC program.

The solution

To design a data-collection plan to deliver conclusions about the socio-economic effects of the MSC program, the MSC has held a workshop with expert marine social scientists and economists. They helped us design an in-person, semi-structured interview approach to gather as many different points of view as possible from stakeholders including fisheries organisation representatives, boat-owners, processors, managers and NGOs.

We are currently piloting the questionnaire on a set of MSC certified fisheries. After this, we will apply it to different parts of the world where the MSC operates, obtaining a large-scale data-set. With this, we will gain a better understanding of what influences the choice to join, or leave, the MSC program and what the ensuing changes in market dynamics and stakeholder relationships mean for the different actors involved, certified or not. This will provide us with evidence for how MSC’s theory of change works.

Who benefits?

This research will contribute to a more transparent reporting and well-rounded understanding of the overall impacts of the MSC program and help to identify negative effects that might need to be addressed in future. Recent research in the journal Science highlighted that comparatively little research has been undertaken on the social dimension of seafood sustainability and we hope that our project will contribute to fill this gap.

Research partners

Led by Chris Anderson (UW, Seattle, USA) and Amber Himes-Cornell (Fishery Officer - Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Fisheries and Aquaculture Department, Policy, Economics and Institutions Branch (FIAP) ), the project draws on expertise from MSC staff around the world as well as external economists, social and political scientists.  

For more information on this project please contact Katie Longo, Senior Scientist.



Recent publications

Our past projects include analysing the ecosystem impacts of fishing for species such as krill and developing a risk-based method for assessing data-deficient fisheries.

Examples of peer-reviewed journal articles co-authored by scientists at the MSC:

Contact the strategic research team

Katie Longo

Katie Longo

Senior Scientist

Ashleigh Arton

Ashleigh Arton

Senior Research Analyst


Research at the MSC

Woman fisher sitting on a boat in a lake. She is holding fishing line and there are trees in the background.

Science and research

Our research collaborations deepen our understanding of sustainable fishing and supply chain traceability.

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Students sort through and identify bycatch

The MSC Student Research Grant

The MSC Student Research Grant supports postgraduate students carrying out research with fisheries engaged or working towards the MSC program.

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