MSC: Keeping Stakeholders at the Heart of our Policy Development

The past eight months have been incredibly challenging for many organisations around the world. Faced with pressures from a global pandemic, the fishing industry has seen major disruption. The MSC has had to reflect and adapt its program too.

The Fisheries Standard Review

A crucial part of our year has been launching consultation on the MSC’s Fisheries Standard Review. This included a series of workshops and consultation of experts and stakeholders to provide input from around the world.

The review happens every five years, in line with the ISEAL Standard-Setting Code of Good Practice. This is to ensure our Fisheries Standard – which sets the sustainability bar for over 17% of the world’s wild-caught marine fisheries – includes the latest global best practice. We also review our Standard to ensure it is clear and easy for assessors to apply as well as addressing any stakeholder concerns.

The pandemic forced us to rethink our typical consultation process – moving everything online.

Launching our first virtual conference

In May we launched our first virtual Fisheries Standard Review conference. Stakeholders had the opportunity to hear – and ask questions – about all 16 projects that could result in changes to the MSC Fisheries Standard.

Over 400 people attended, including 118 NGO representatives, 63 fisheries staff, 52 assessors, 46 academic scientists, 19 government officials, 10 retailers, 5 journalists and 62 others interested parties.

We had lots of useful feedback from our follow up surveys. Some stakeholders in developing regions highlighted challenges with internet connections. Some found the conference over complicated, and others not simplified enough.

Going online offers greater accessibility

Our initial online consultations were also a success. People no longer needed to book a trip to London for a week and could engage from all around the world.

We completed five surveys with 268 responses and 11 workshops with over 200 participants. This involved over 150 different organisations from across 33 different countries.

In comparison, the 2015 Fisheries Standard Review had only 67 responses from 36 organisations.

We recognised the need to improve engagement and made a huge effort to reach more stakeholders with clearer information and more accessible ways to participate – and this will continue into 2021.

There is no doubt that going online provided new opportunities for stakeholders who might not have been able to participate otherwise.

Evolving our digital engagement

One thing we didn’t anticipate was just how enthusiastic respondents would be. We’ve had an overwhelming amount of feedback, with over 100,000 words on topics like endangered species. So, finding a way to quickly process this information is something we’re looking to improve on next time.

Managing live Q&A sessions with requests to speak was also challenging. We had to juggle time constraints and differing time zones, and work hard to ensure speakers from all sectors had an opportunity to contribute. We ask that if anybody has felt a barrier to participation, to please let us know.

We’ll continue to evolve – with the rest of the world – in making improvements to our online consultation experiences. We want all stakeholders to be fairly represented and heard.

The future of our Fisheries Standard

Over the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing transcripts from workshops and stakeholder feedback reports to those involved.

We’ve also commissioned and published independent research on global best practice shark finning policy and National Plans of Action for seabirds, to help inform the review. 

Stakeholders help us identify issues, develop solutions and test proposed changes. So, ensuring this information is public and accessible is essential to improving our Standard.

Whether we will return to face-to-face consultations in the future is yet to be decided. Either way, stakeholders remain at the heart of our policy decisions and will play a key role in the development of our Standards.

We will continue to engage with stakeholders in 2021 to develop policy options. We will also carry out impact assessments on all proposed changes. This will provide comparable information on the potential or expected impacts of the options considered and help increase transparency around decision making.

In early 2022, the revised Standard will be publicly reviewed to ensure changes are clear and that the new Standard delivers the intentions of our program.

Progressing sustainable fishing together

We’re always striving to improve our Standard, and our stakeholders are key to that.

We know that together we can increase the number of sustainable fisheries worldwide and uphold global best practice in our certified fisheries.

Thank you to all who have contributed to our Fisheries Standard Review consultations so far. We encourage more stakeholders to engage with us, to drive real change on the water.

To be notified of future activities and developments, sign up to our Fisheries Standard Review update.

Stakeholders can also be involved in fishery assessments, find out how to engage with a fishery assessment.