How WA's MSC Plan works

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification is achieved through two key processes: pre-assessment and full assessment.

MSC Pre-assessment

Each of WA’s 47 commercial fisheries will go through MSC pre-assessment conducted by an independent Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) to get an indication on how a fishery measures up against the three principles of the MSC environmental standard.

It’s important to note that while the MSC sets the standard for a sustainable fishery it’s an independent CAB, approved by the MSC that carries out the assessment. There are currently 10 CABs worldwide accredited to undertake full MSC fisheries assessments.

In the pre-assessment stage the CAB use available information to provide an opinion on:

  1. The current status of the fishery against each of the MSC principles and criteria;
  2. Likely gaps and any improvements that may be needed in the performance of the fishery before it could achieve full MSC certification standard; and
  3. The level of overlap of issues among fisheries within each bioregion, to inform how they should be structured for full assessment. Once pre-assessments have been completed a timetable and process for full assessments is developed.

The pre-assessments are being conducted on a bioregional basis. The Department of Fisheries provides the external assessors with an analysis of each fishery or group of related fisheries/species in the bioregion, with further details provided as required. Assessors also gather information from the fishing industry.

Pre-assessment reports are confidential to the relevant fishery.

MSC Full-assessment

A fishery that gets a favourable score on pre-assessment can choose, on a voluntary basis, to enter the full MSC assessment process.

During this stage the CAB use a team of international experts to undertake a highly detailed examination of each fishery using the framework set out by the MSC to benchmark a fishery’s performance by scoring it against 31 MSC criteria across the three MSC principles (sustainable fish stocks, minimising environmental impact and effective management). These are highly precautionary. For example, if any of the standards assessed scores less than 60 the fishery fails certification. Each of the three principles established by the MSC must score an average of at least 80 for the fishery to be certified. For those criteria where a score is less than 80, conditions are set to improve performance to the 80 level within an appropriate time period. This process can take from several months to more than a year to complete.

The assessment process is transparent and provides opportunities for stakeholder input. Information on each fishery going through full assessment is published on the MSC website.

Fisheries achieving certification will have annual audits to ensure their level of performance is maintained and that arising issues are being adequately addressed. A full review of the management of a certified fishery against the MSC standard is required every five years.

A fishery that is MSC certified has passed the world’s most rigorous, scientific standard for sustainability and has the right to market its seafood under the MSC ecolabel.

The MSC ecolabel empowers seafood consumers giving them a credible and easy way to choose sustainable seafood.

Fishery Improvement Projects

Western Australia is a world leader in fisheries management and each year the Department of Fisheries publishes its Status of Fisheries report, that delivers a scientific assessment on each fishery; last year’s report concluded that 97% of WA Fisheries are sustainably managed. Of the remaining, management responses are in place or proposed to support stock recovery.

A fishery that may not have scored well against one or more of the three principles of the MSC standard in pre-assessment may choose to go into a Fisheries Improvement Project or introduce other long term plans in partnership with the Department of Fisheries, to get on track to ultimately moving to full MSC assessment in the future.

A portion of the State Government’s $14.5m pre-assessment funds will be available to assist with fishery improvement projects to help fisheries transition through to full certification. This allocation will be available to leverage funding from other sources.

The vision is to have every WA commercial fishery MSC certified within the next two decades.


Get Certified: Your guide the MSC fishery assessment process (3.07 Mb)

Back to the top