What is WA's MSC Plan?

The State Government has invested $14.5m to have WA’s 47 commercial fisheries independently assessed against the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) environmental standard for sustainable fishing.

The MSC’s science based standard is recognised worldwide as the gold standard in independent, third party certification. Every fishery engaged in the MSC program submits to a rigorous, transparent, stakeholder engaged, scientific assessment. Building on the Department of Fisheries strong record in fisheries management the vision is to have every WA fishery to the MSC standard within the next two decades.

Each WA commercial fishery will be scored against the international standard for sustainable fishing set by the MSC, which is based on three principles:

Principle 1

Sustainable fish stocks: The fishing activity must be at a level, which sustains the fish population. Certified fisheries must operate in a way that avoids over-exploitation so that fishing can continue indefinitely.

Principle 2

Minimizing environmental impact: Fishing operations should be managed so that the structure, productivity, function and diversity of the ecosystem on which the fishery depends is maintained.

Principle 3

Effective management: The fishery must meet all local, national and international laws and have a management system, which can respond to changing circumstances while maintaining sustainability.

To become certified, a fishery, as the first step, goes through a pre-assessment conducted by independent assessors. The fishery then reviews that assessment, in consultation with the Department of Fisheries, and if that assessment is favourable can choose to go through the full assessment process. An independent certification body conducts full assessment, which can take up to a year; there is no guarantee of success. If a fishery meets the MSC standard they have the right to use the MSC ecolabel.

The MSC also sets a standard for traceability (Chain of Custody). The MSC Chain of Custody certification ensures that seafood baring the MSC ecolabel can be traced every step of the way through the supply chain, from fishery to the seafood consumer.

The key objectives of WA's MSC plan for fisheries are:

  1. To provide seafood consumers worldwide and our community confidence that WA’s commercial fisheries deliver sustainable seafood;
  2. To meet the retail trend to only serve fish from fisheries either independently assessed as sustainable or in a fishery improvement program; and
  3. To assess WA’s commercial fisheries against MSC’s credible, third party, science-based standard resulting in an independent review of WA Fisheries research and management practices.