Scaled Management Systems

MSC Celebrating 15 Years of Sustainable Seafood

Unsustainable fishing is a major global challenge. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 29% of global fisheries have been fished beyond sustainable limits and a further 61% are fully exploited.

In 1997 the first Marine Stewardship Council Fisheries Standard, based on the UN FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing (, was launched. With the commencement of assessments taking place in 1999, the Western Australia rock lobster became the first fishery to achieve certification, with the Alaska salmon following shortly after.
Criteria assessed are:

Principle 1: Sustainable fishing stocks

The fishing activity must be at a level which ensures it can continue indefinitely

Principle 2: Minimising environmental impact

Fishing operations must be managed to maintain the structure, productivity, function and diversity of

the ecosystem

Principle 3: Effective management

The fishery must comply with the relevant laws and have a management system that is responsive to

changing circumstances.
In the 2014-2015 year there are 256 MSC Certified fisheries globally with more fisheries under assessment.

This year, MSC updated their Fisheries Standard to ensure the latest science and Best Management Practices adopted by the world’s leading fisheries.

There are 5 important updates to the Standard:

  1. Cumulative impacts on bycatch species are addressed
  2. New measures have been introduced to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems
  3. New requirements to review bycatch
  4. Clear policy on forced labour
  5. Streamlined process (to minimise cost and administrative burden for businesses for the auditing and assessment process).

The MSC Chain of Custody Standard is a traceability and segregation standard that is applicable to the full supply chain from a certified fishery or farm to final sale.
Over 17, 000 products comprising of 108 species and bearing the MSC ecolabel are sold in 97 countries around the world.

In 2014, from a survey of 9,000 regular seafood buyers from 15 countries across Europe, Asia, Australasia and North America 41% were actively looking for seafood from a sustainable source and 33% recognised the MSC ecolabel. The highest percentage recognising the MSC ecolabel were from Germany, correlating with the highest number of products being available for sale there.

MSC are working with a range of partners to raise awareness of sustainable seafood and the results are encouraging, but there’s still a long way to go.

MSC Fisheries Standard Version 2.0

MSC Chain of Custody Standard

FAO – Fisheries and Aquaculture Circular

Implementation of Performance Review Reports by Regional Fishery bodies, 2004-2014