MSC Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing is a standard ensuring that a fishery is well managed and responsibly harvested to sustain the target fishery and the surrounding marine environment. Certification to this standard demonstrates commitment to sustainable practices and results in recognition in the market.

What is the MSC Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing? 

Consumers and retailers increasingly demand guarantees that seafood products are sourced from well managed and sustainable fisheries that maintain the marine environment. Certification according to the MSC Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing standard confirms sustainable practices, using a credible, independent, third-party assessment process. The MSC Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing standard is applicable to all wild capture fisheries. 

The standard is based on three core principles: 

  • Sustainability of exploited fish stocks.
  • Maintenance of the ecosystem on which the fishery depends.
  • Effective and responsible management. 

What are the benefits? 

Certification to the MSC Principles and criteria for sustainable fishing enables your organisation to:

  • Fulfill market requirement of third-party verification of sustainable fishing.
  • Differentiate products in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
  • Be a preferred supplier.
  • Adapt to the environmentally conscious consumer.
  • Support the positioning of your product with the eco-label.
  • Demonstrate good resource stewardship to the community and stakeholders.
  • Contribute to increased pressure for improvement on non-sustainable fisheries. 

How can we help you? 

We are a certification body accredited to assess fisheries against the three MSC Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing and issue certificates.

  • Principle 1 - Sustainable target fish stocks: A fishery must be conducted in a manner that does not lead to over-fishing or depletion of the exploited populations and, for those populations that are depleted, the fishery must be conducted in a manner that demonstrably leads to their recovery.
  • Principle 2 - Environmental impact of fishing: Fishing operations should allow for the maintenance of the structure, productivity, function and diversity of the ecosystem (including habitat and associated dependent and ecologically related species) on which the fishery depends.
  • Principle 3 Effective management: The fishery is subject to an effective management system that respects local, national and international laws and standards and incorporates institutional and operational frameworks that require use of the resource to be responsible and sustainable.

Certificates are valid for five years.

The assessment includes measuring the fishery against the principles of the standard, taking into account the unique circumstances of the fishery. The certification process includes involvement of fishery experts, consultations with stakeholders and submission of reports at specific stages.

To ensure that only seafood originating from MSC certified sustainable fisheries carry the MSC eco-label, all companies in the supply chain must be certified according to the MSC chain of custody standard. 

How can I prepare for certification?

Contact us to get more information.

  • Give clear responsibility for progress to a person within your organisation. 
  • Decide who the customer should be, taking into account the rights and responsibilities that come with the certificate.  
  • Make sure you have a clear purpose and understanding of what you want to accomplish through the certification process.  
  • Decide what should be certified in terms of the specific fishery, fish stock or particular gears/fishing methods.  
  • Collect as much information as possible concerning your fish stock, stakeholders and related issues as it speeds up the assessment and reduces costs.
  • Ensure the support and input of all stakeholders.

The most important element in the certification process is to transparently identify and address issues about target stock(s), the impact of fishing on the marine environment, and the effectiveness of the fishery’s management system. Specific circumstances out of your company’s control may prevent you from becoming certified, such as unsustainable governmental policies. Thus, the pre-assessment is a fundamental step in the certification process, in order to identify possible problems at a very early stage. 

What is the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)? 

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an independent, global, non-profit organisation. It was first set up as a joint effort to solve the problem of over-fishing by Unilever and the WWF in 1997. It became independent in 1999. The organizations mission is to use their eco-label and fishery certification programme to contribute to the health of the world’s oceans by recognizing and rewarding sustainable fishing practices, influencing the choices people make when buying seafood, and working with partners to transform the seafood market to a sustainable basis.

More information

  MSC Fisheries Standard

MSC Fisheries Standard

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Marine Stewardship Council homepage

Certification and ecolabelling program for sustainable seafood


The MSC standards


MSC’s supplier directory


Use of the MSC ecolabel