Fisheries are certified against a rigorous, scientific methodology by an independent third-party accredited certifier during the MSC Full Assessment process. The MSC sustainable fisheries standard has three overarching principles that every fishery must prove that it meets:
Principle 1: Sustainable Fish Stocks
The fishing activity must be at a level which is sustainable for the fish population. Any certified fishery must operate so that fishing can continue indefinitely and is not overexploiting the resources.
Principle 2: Minimizing Environmental Impact
Fishing operations should be managed to maintain the structure, productivity, function and diversity of the ecosystem on which the fishery depends.
Principle 3: Effective Management
The fishery must meet all local, national and international laws and must have a management system in place to respond to changing circumstances and maintain sustainability.
Steps to Certification
The MSC assessment has seven steps to certification:
- Fishery announcement and assessment team formation
- Building the assessment tree
- Information gathering, stakeholder meetings, and scoring
- Client and peer review
- Public review of the draft assessment report
- Final report and determination
- Public certification report and certificate issue
The MSC has a scoring system where each of the criteria are scored individually, averaged at the principle level, and then averaged overall to determine if the fishery has passed the assessment. There are three major scoring thresholds in the MSC assessment of fisheries: 60, 80, 100.
- If any of the criteria score below 60 the fishery automatically fails assessment.
- Each principle score must average at least 80 to be eligible for certification and 100 is the highest score.
- Additionally, for fisheries that are certified, for any criteria scores that fall between the score of 60 & 80, conditions are put in place that the fishery must meet to increase their score to 80 or above.
- Once certified, a fishery's certification lasts for five years and requires annual audits.
- At the end of five years, the fishery is fully assessed once again against the MSC standard for sustainable fisheries.
Chain of Custody Certification
The Marine Stewardship Council also oversees a Chain of Custody certification standard to ensure that the certified sustainable fishery products are traced throughout the supply chain. Any company wishing to sell products as MSC-certified must have MSC Chain of Custody certification for each species they wish to sell. The MSC Chain of Custody primarily assesses that processes are in place to track the MSC-certified seafood and keep it separate from non-certified seafood in the supply chain. These certifications are also completed by an independent, accredited third-party certifier and are valid for three years. Additionally, any company wishing to use the MSC ecolabel on products or restaurant / foodservice operation using the ecolabel on menus must enter into a separate Ecolabel Licensing Agreement with the MSC. There are four principles for the MSC seafood traceability standard:
Principle 1: The Organization Shall Have a Management System
The organization shall maintain documentation of their management system, which can vary in complexity based on the size, complexity, and personnel of the organization.
Principle 2: The Organization Shall Operate a Traceability System
The organisation shall maintain records that allow any product or batch of products sold by the organisation as certified to be traced from its sales invoice to a certified source and vice versa.
Principle 3: There Shall Be No Substitution Of Certified Product for Non-Certified Product
Certified and non-certified products shall not be mixed if the organisation wishes to make a claim about these certified products, except as in 3.1.1. The organisation shall operate a system for ensuring that packaging materials and other identification materials bearing the MSC ecolabel cannot be used for non-certified products.
Principle 4: There Shall Be a System to Ensure All Certified Products Are Identified
- The organisation shall ensure that certified products are identifiable as such at all stages of purchasing, storage, processing, packing, labelling, selling and delivery.
- The organisation shall ensure that only certified products covered by its scope of certification are identified as such.
- The organisation shall only label certified products with the words “Marine Stewardship Council” or use the MSC ecolabel and claim if it has been granted approval to do so by MSCI under the terms of the Ecolabel Licence agreement.
For a current list of companies accredited to certify against the standards of the Marine Stewardship Council, please visit Accreditation Services International.