The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) opens three consultations offering stakeholders 60 days to comment on proposals to improve confidence that the MSC Fisheries Standard is being applied consistently. The consultations focus on three components of the MSC’s Fisheries Certification Process: conditions, addressing disagreement and expedited audits.
“As part of ongoing efforts to maintain our globally recognised certification program for sustainable seafood, we regularly review our requirements and processes to ensure that they continue to meet widely recognised best practice,”said Rohan Currey, Fisheries Standard Director at the Marine Stewardship Council. “This latest round of consultations focuses on the process followed by certifiers when assessing fisheries and aims to address any real or perceived issues. We welcome constructive comments and feedback from all stakeholders.”
Conditions for continuing certification are given by independent certifiers to fisheries that meet the MSC’s minimum requirements but do not meet best practice requirements for one or more Performance Indicators of the MSC Fisheries Standard. They require fisheries to deliver improvements in order to raise their performance to best-practice levels, usually within five years. They are designed to drive continual improvement within already certified fisheries. Failure to improve in line with conditions can result in the suspension of a fishery’s MSC certificate.
Following concerns raised by stakeholders on the closure of conditions, the MSC commissioned two independent reviews by accreditation experts, Assurance Services International (ASI). These reviews considered the way conditions are identified, evaluated and closed, and on occasion carried over into subsequent certification cycles. ASI found that the majority of conditions are closed in accordance with the MSC’s requirements and that while the MSC has clarified and strengthened requirements over time, there is still room for improvement. In a small minority of cases, conditions were closed without following all relevant MSC requirements and then subsequently reopened due to this non-conformity.
To address this issue, the MSC is asking stakeholders to provide feedback on proposals to improve the way conditions are set, evaluated and closed by certifiers. Options for consultation include an opportunity for stakeholder feedback on annual surveillance reports, requiring conditions to be closed within four years and improved reporting templates.
Addressing disagreement with expert judgement
The MSC is exploring different options to address disagreement in expert judgement and scientific opinion between conformity assessment bodies, peer reviewers and stakeholders. This consultation focuses on one aspect of this area of work. Stakeholders are being asked to provide feedback on proposals to address persistent disagreement including submitting statements and exploring arbitration mechanisms.
For certified fisheries, an expedited audit is triggered outside of the regular schedule of annual audits when new information becomes available that could result in a material change to the fishery’s score against the MSC Fisheries Standard.
This consultation asks for stakeholders’ input on proposed clarifications to the expedited audit process, including a potential peer review stage and/or a consultation period during an expedited audit.
All three consultations close on 3rd April 2019. Any resulting changes to the MSC’s requirements are expected to be released in early 2020.
Other reviews and consultations
These consultations are separate from and in addition to the ongoing Fisheries Standard Review, which runs until 2021 and focuses on measures for sustainability set out within the MSC Fisheries Standard.
Further consultations on shark finning and compartmentalised fisheries (unit of assessment) are planned for March 2019.