Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certification

Certification of Sustainable Fisheries

What is Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certification?

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Certification assesses a fishery against the three principles: 1) Stock health 2.) Environmental impacts 3.) Effective management. MSC certification assures buyers, retailers and general consumers that wild-capture fisheries conform to the internationally recognized standard for environmental sustainability.  SCS Global Services brings 25 years of successful certification experience to the assessment of both marine or fresh water fishery operations. 

The process of pursuing certification is divided into two parts:

1. Includes an initial gap analysis and readiness assessment for certification resulting in a report that either confirms readiness to progress into a public and transparent certification process or provides valuable insights into the development of a Fishery Improvement Project (FIP).

2. If progressing to the next phase, SCS will publicly post the report for stakeholder, peer review and MSC comments. The report is then updated to take into account all comments submitted, followed by a certification decision point report which itself is open to stakeholder comment prior to certification being awarded.

Why Choose SCS?

As a global leader in third-party certification for the past 40 years, SCS’ MSC certifications are thorough and competently executed so that your certification stands up to stakeholder, scientific and industry scrutiny. SCS can successfully conduct complex and simple assessments alike. We have certified operations ranging from large commercial fisheries to small community-based operations - more than two million metric tons of fish and shellfish worldwide, from Alaska to Antarctica. 

SCS also certifies seafood companies to the MSC Chain of Custody standard for seafood traceability and is accredited by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC). Ready to start the process? Complete an Application.

  • Program Details
  • Process
  • Benefits
  • Certified Clients
  • FAQs
  • Program Documents
Eligible Wild-Capture Fisheries

Any freshwater or marine fishery - regardless of size, scale, ecology, or geography - can seek certification. Eligible wild-capture fisheries include, but are not limited to:

  • Single species and multiple species
  • Trawl, longline, handraked and pots
  • Freshwater and marine
  • Inshore and offshore
  • Pelagic and demersal

Eligible applicants include individuals, organizations, companies, government agencies, industry associations and local management authorities. The MSC has a program specifically designed to facilitate the participation of developing countries in certification.

Certification Criteria

Fisheries must meet or exceed the minimum standards in the following three areas:

  • Sustainability of target fish stock
  • Ecosystem integrity
  • Effective fishery management system
Complementary Services

SCS also offers the convenience of combined MSC Chain of Custody audits with HACCP inspections through our Seafood Safety auditing programs. We also provide custom services for retail clients interested in having their in-house seafood program standards validated.

Aquaculture fish farms may be certified under the Aquaculture Stewardship Council Standards.

MSC Pre-Assessments

We can conduct pre-assessments for your fishery operation in preparation for a full assessment. Pre-assessments allow clients to gauge their likely conformity to the MSC standard and identify any improvements needed. This allows clients to demonstrate their firm commitment to supplying MSC product to their buyers.

A pre-assessment includes:

  • Gap analysis of your operations against the standard
  • Publication of a report identifying any areas of improvement
MSC Full Assessments

We offer full assessments for fisheries ready to proceed through the full MSC certification process. The extent and cost of the full assessment will be contingent on the number and type of improvements identified through the pre-assessment.

  1. Apply for Certification

    Submit your application. You receive the SCS Assessment Services Agreement. Complete, sign, and return.

  2. Prepare a Proposal

    We prepare a proposal that includes the scope, costs and details of the audit. Authorize the work order, and schedule your evaluation audit.

  3. Pre-Assessment (Optional)

    SCS evaluates the qualifications of your fishery operation and determines what risks, if any, may limit your ability to successfully complete a rigorous and comprehensive assessment.

  4. On-Site Audit

    An independent assessment team reviews documentation, interviews stakeholders and evaluates your fishery against specific performance indicators that relate to the health of the stock, the impacts on the ecosystem and the management system structures and functions.

  5. Audit Report and Public Comment

    The SCS certification team then writes a draft report, which is reviewed by you and two independent peer reviewers. The report is then posted for public comment.

  6. Certification Decision

    After considering all comments, a final report is released that includes the final decision on whether or not to award certification. If no objections have been raised, the public certification report is published and your fishery receives a certificate from SCS. SCS can also provide client marketing support.

  7. Annual Surveillance

    Certification is valid for 5 years, subject to annual surveillance audits.

More details are available on the MSC website.

A growing number of food retailers, restaurants and institutions are seeking MSC certified fish and seafood. Potential advantages of MSC certification include:

  • Increased market access and market share
  • Price premiums
  • Internationally recognized ecolabel
  • Identify improvement opportunities
  • Increased employee satisfaction
  • Maintain good relations with local communities
  • Access to government, development bank and other funding sources
  • Showcase improvements

For the most up-to-date information regarding fishery status, see the MSC Track a Fishery website:

Selected MSC responsible fishery clients assessed through SCS Global Services include:

  • Annette Island Reserve Salmon
  • Australia Blue Grenadier
  • Australian HIMI Toothfish
  • Australian Lakes and Coorong Mixed Fishery
  • Australian Heard Island and McDonald Islands Icefish
  • Australian Heard Island and McDonald Island Toothfish
  • Australian Mackerel Icefish Fishery
  • Australian Macquarie Island Toothfish in Australia
  • Australian Peel Harvey Fishery Crab and Mullet
  • Australian Small Pelagic
  • Australian (Western Australia) Rock Lobster
  • Australian West Coast Deep Sea Crab
  • Canadian Atlantic Halibut
  • Canadian Scotia-Fundy Haddock
  • Canadian Pacific Halibut
  • Canadian (British Columbia) Sablefish
  • Canadian Scotian Shelf Shrimp
  • Canadian Spiny Dogfish
  • British Columbia Halibut Fishery
  • Japanese Hokkaido Salmon
  • Kyoto Danish Seine Fishery Federation Snow Crab Flathead Flounder
  • Mexican Baja California Lobster
  • Mexican Gulf of California Sardines
  • Mexican Gulf of California Thread Herring
  • Northeastern Tropical Pacific Purse Seine Yellowfin and Skipjack Tuna
  • Oregon Dungeness Crab Fishery
  • PNA Skipjack and Yellowfin
  • Russian Iturup Island Salmon
  • South Australia Lakes & Coroong Fishery
  • US American Samoa Tuna
  • US Atlantic Deep-Sea Red Crab
  • US Atlantic Surf Clam and Ocean Quahog
  • US Annette Islands Reserve Salmon
  • US Louisiana Blue Crab
  • US Oregon Dungeness Crab
  • US North Pacific Halibut
  • US North Pacific Sablefish
Why should I get MSC certified?

MSC certification is one of the best ways for fisheries to protect marine resources. Certification can give fisheries access to supply chains that require MSC certified seafood. The MSC program is the most robust certification scheme for wild-capture fisheries in the market. Increasingly, companies and governments that value environmental responsibility are requiring MSC certification. MSC certification can also result in potential for price premiums and improved fisheries management.

How do I know if I'm ready for MSC Certification?

MSC Certification can be a challenging standard to meet. A preliminary assessment (pre-assessment) conducted by SCS is the best way to determine whether you are ready for a full certification evaluation.

How much does certification cost?

The cost of certification varies depending on the complexity and size of the fishery. Another key factor is how prepared the fishery is for assessment. Contact SCS for a customized price quote and to find out whether your fishery may benefit most from a pre-assessment or full assessment.

How long does it take?

The average time for an assessment is 12-18 months, but timing can vary greatly. Factors that influence duration of assessments include access to records, client responsiveness and the complexity of the fishery. SCS prides itself on rapid work with assessment materials and will partner with clients to create an efficient assessment plan.

How long is a MSC certificate valid?

Fisheries certificates are valid for a period of 5 years, subject to annual surveillance audits.

File Name Document
Benefits of MSC Sustainable Fishery Certification English   |   Spanish
MSC Fisheries Certification Requirements and Guidance, V2.0 English
MSC Fishery: Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing Visit Site

Apply Now

Ready to start the process? Complete an Application.

Brian Ahlers