An independent, international, non-profit organization founded in 1996, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) manages a program to assess wild-capture fisheries and certify them as “sustainable” if they meet criteria in the MSC Fisheries Standard.

As a stakeholder, ISSF engages with MSC to help improve the standards and ensure consistency among its fishery assessments.

Through certification, the Marine Stewardship Council acknowledges those select fisheries that meet its sustainable fishing benchmarks. If more fisheries worldwide become capable of meeting MSC’s fishery and chain-of-custody standards, the global seafood supply chain will become more traceable and sustainable. 

Tuna Fishery Assessment and Certification

There are about 300 MSC-certified fisheries worldwide. Among tuna fisheries, 25 were MSC certified as of March 2019 (see Appendix 2 in our current Status of the Stocks report for the full list of MSC-certified tuna fisheries). 

MSC fishery certification, which is based on its Fisheries Standard, can last up to five years.

Purse-seine tuna fisheries that use drifting FADs, which harvest the majority of the world’s tuna, are capable of achieving MSC certification if they follow science-based best practices.

Ideally, all tuna would be sourced from MSC-certified fisheries, and all fisheries would receive an 80-100 score on each MSC Performance Indicator (PI) — that is, receive MSC certification without conditions. ISSF’s 2018-2022 Strategic Plan lays out how our organization will continue to help fisheries improve — and advance their sustainability efforts — so they can meet MSC certification criteria.

MSC Scores and Sustainability

During an MSC assessment, fisheries assessors thoroughly examine a fishery’s policies, processes, and outcomes based on 28 separate performance indicators related to the three MSC principles of the MSC Fisheries Standard.

ISSF offers expertise and resources to help fisheries close conditions and earn certification from MSC.

On each performance indicator, the fishery receives a score from 0-100. Those individual scores create an aggregate score that determines whether a fishery will receive certification (for a score 80-100) or “conditional” certification (60-79) — or fail (59 or below). MSC weights some PIs more than others in scoring, so a fishery can receive an overall “fail” even if it has only one failing PI score.

ISSF offers expertise and resources to help fisheries remediate their performance in problem areas, or to close conditions so the fishery can maintain MSC certification. To locate ISSF resources for a FIP based on MSC Performance Indicators, use our FIP Resources Finder tool.

ISSF’s MSC Reports

ISSF does not assess or certify fisheries. Certification is a Marine Stewardship Council function. But in addition to providing resources for fisheries seeking MSC certification, we publish research based on MSC criteria.

Our signature “MSC reports” are:



We’ve also created charts that show trends in fisheries’ average PI scores under MSC Principle 1 and Principle 3.