Fisheries Research Articles

Identifying and mitigating potential risks for Marine Stewardship Council assessment and certification

Document Type


Publication Date


Journal Title

Fisheries Research


Print: 0165-7836 Electronic: 1872-6763


Third party certification; Marine stewardship council; Risk mitigation


Aquaculture and Fisheries | Marine Biology


The assessment of a fishery against the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard requires a large amount of technical knowledge and fishery information. Failure to meet the minimum requirements or to provide the necessary information may result in ‘conditions’ being placed on a fishery, which can increase the overall cost of maintaining certification. Thus, it is prudent for the fishery client to have a thorough understanding of any potential areas of weakness prior to undergoing assessment. This study investigates patterns in the types of conditions received by MSC certified fisheries to identify common risk areas based on general fishery characteristics, such as target species, fishing method and geographic region. Fisheries targeting crab/lobster, large pelagic finfish and flatfish, and fisheries operating in the UK/Europe and the NE Pacific regions, received more conditions related to the target species’ stock status (MSC Principle 1) than other groups investigated. Ecosystem (MSC Principle 2) conditions were more frequently received by fisheries using demersal trawl or longline methods compared to hand collection, line fishing or other types of netting. A high proportion of shrimp and crab/lobster fisheries, fisheries in the NW Atlantic region and dredge fisheries received Governance/Management (MSC Principle 3) conditions. Case studies from five types of frequently-certified fisheries are used to identify mitigation strategies for common high-risk areas. The identification and mitigation of risk areas has important implications particularly for small-scale and developing-country fisheries that have limited resources and therefore need to minimise the number of conditions received. Similarly, the identification of common risks areas highlights where more explicit guidance needs to be incorporated into future reviews of the MSC standard, e.g. Harvest Control Rules, to assist prospective fisheries and to ensure consistency in assessments.