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To achieve MSC certification, fisheries must demonstrate they are not causing serious or irreversible harm to the structure and function of seafloor - or ‘benthic’ - habitats. To help fisheries understand and reduce their impacts, we have developed the Benthic Impacts Tool.

Protecting habitats

The tool was developed in collaboration with the University of Bangor and uses sophisticated modelling software to help predict the impact of fishing gear and vessels on the seafloor. 

Improved understanding of benthic habitats and fishing impacts will help fisheries reduce their impacts and avoid sensitive areas. Specifically, this tool will help to quantify the impacts of bottom trawling on sedimentary habitats. These types of habitats are often referred to as “commonly encountered habitat” types within version 2.01 of our Fisheries Standard and “less sensitive habitat” types in the context of an assessment against version 3.0 of our Standard.   

The tool will draw on available habitat data and identify the combinations of habitat and fishing gear types that lead to serious damage to the seafloor – damage that takes more than 20 years for the habitat to recover. 

Using the Benthic Impacts Tool

Fisheries seeking certification to the MSC Fisheries Standard will be able to use this tool to understand and manage their impacts on habitats. The tool is optional to use, will be helpful in scoring the Habitats Performance Indicator (2.3.1, scoring issue (a)).

The tool will also help to provide consistent and quantitative evidence for third-party assessment bodies who assess fisheries against our Standard. This will help strengthen confidence that assessments are data-driven and objective. 

Access the Benthic Impacts Tool

Support and guidance

Our user manual contains detailed instructions on how to use the Benthic Impacts Tool. You can also watch our training video for further guidance and support in using the tool.

Contact [email protected] with any questions about the tool and its use in fisheries assessments. 

Using the MSC Benthic Impacts Tool

Find out more

Science and research

Science and research

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

Shining a light on the seafloor

Shining a light on the seafloor

How much do we know about what lives on the sea floor? Sea sponges, sea pens and deep-sea corals are just some of the mysterious creatures that live in the dark depths.

Minimising impact on habitats

Minimising impact on habitats

The MSC Fisheries Standard rewards fisheries that protect ecosystems and habitats in the places where they fish.