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.
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, 16 were MSC certified as of February 2018 (see Appendix 2 in our current Status of the Stocks report for the full list of MSC-certified tuna fisheries).
No purse-seine tuna fisheries that use drifting FADs, which harvest the majority of the world’s tuna, have yet received MSC certification — although such fisheries are capable of achieving it if they follow science-based best practices that ISSF has identified.
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.
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.
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:
- ISSF 2017-09: An Evaluation of the Sustainability of Global Tuna Stocks Relative to Marine Stewardship Council Criteria, the current version of what’s known informally as ISSF’s “P1 and P3” report, was authored by experienced MSC fishery assessors Paul A.H. Medley and Jo Gascoigne.
- This report, produced since 2013, applies MSC’s fishery management scoring system (Principles 1 and 3) to global tuna stock management, since the sustainability criteria are comparable.
- 19 tropical and temperate tuna stocks worldwide are scored, and the Regional Fishery Management Organization (RFMO) management systems associated with these stocks also are evaluated.
- Our first-ever “P2” report, ISSF 2018-16: A Pre-Assessment of the Sustainability of Global Tuna Fisheries Relative to Marine Stewardship Council Criteria: Principle 2, focuses on fisheries’ impacts on their marine ecosystem, examining 166 different stock and fishing-method combinations. Each combination is a Unit of Assessment (UoA).