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How we meet best practice

It’s vital that everyone, from fishers to retailers, scientists to consumers, has confidence in the blue MSC label and the credibility of the claims made by certified organisations.

We go to great lengths to ensure we meet the highest international benchmarks for credible certification and ecolabeling and our standards reflect best practice in fisheries management.

Our program is the only wild seafood certification program to be consistent with all the following international norms:

The UN FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing

The MSC Fisheries Standard is based in part on the UN FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fishing. The Code was established in 1995 as a framework for international efforts to encourage fishing activity that is sustainable and in harmony with the environment. It provides principles and standards for the conservation, management and development of fisheries around the world.

The UN FAO Guidelines for the Ecolabelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries

The MSC's seafood certification and ecolabelling scheme is fully consistent with the UN FAO's internationally-agreed set of principles for ecolabelling of wild caught seafood. These include:

• objective, third-party fishery assessment using scientific evidence
• transparent processes with built-in stakeholder consultation and objection procedures
• standards based on the three factors - sustainability of target species, ecosystems and management practices.

This is confirmed by external auditing to the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative benchmark.

The Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative

We are currently the only international certification program for wild caught seafood recognised by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI), an independent benchmark for the credibility of sustainable seafood certification programs. GSSI was developed by a coalition of environmental NGOs, global businesses, industry experts, governments and intergovernmental organisations and is based on UN FAO codes and guidelines. 

The auditing process to assess the MSC to this benchmark took over 18 months and included open consultation on GSSI’s report. It reviewed our governance, management, supply chain traceability and auditing, as well as a wide range of other relevant areas including deep-sea fishing, vulnerable marine ecosystems and data collection to demonstrate impact.

World Trade Organization Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement

Standards and other regulations can sometimes create obstacles to international trade, known as Technical Barriers to Trade (TBTs). These cause inequalities by preventing some countries from participating in and benefiting from international trade.

The World Trade Organization (WTO) Technical Barriers to Trade Agreement exists to ensure that standards do not create unnecessary obstacles to trade. ISEAL has sought a legal opinion from the Centre for International Environmental Law (CIEL) which confirms that all organisations consistent with the ISEAL Code of Good Practice, are not TBTs.

ISEAL's international codes for credible standards setters

We are the only wild seafood certification program to be a full member of ISEAL, the International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labelling Alliance. 

As an ISEAL member, we comply with their highly regarded codes for standard setting, assurance and impact monitoring. These require that:

• Standards are set in open, transparent and participatory processes
• Rigorous assurance mechanisms are in place to mitigate risks of non-compliance
• There is systematic and objective evaluation of the standards' effects and impacts
• There are measures to integrate new information and encourage ongoing improvement
• Monitoring and evaluation is in place to demonstrate the impacts of the program.

We're regularly audited to ensure that we meet these codes.
Other full members of ISEAL include Rainforest Alliance, Fairtrade and the Forestry Stewardship Council.

Additional recognition of best practice

In addition to meeting international norms and guidelines for best practice, our program is well regarded by numerous international organisations who scrutinise the role of standard setting in safeguarding our oceans.

Global leaders in ocean sustainability

MSC certification is used as an indicator in the United Nations (UN) Convention on Biodiversity’s Aichi Targets. Part of the UN’s decade-long initiative to significantly reduce biodiversity loss by 2020, these targets were widely consulted with the international conservation and governance community.

The MSC and other credible standard setters are seen to have a key role to play in helping companies and governments to achieve the UN Environment Programme’s Sustainable Development Goals by providing best practice guidance for 'what good looks like in a specific industry (WWF/ISEAL, 2017).


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