Scorecards

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Eyes on the MSC Review – Big Blue Future or Big Blue Failure?

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is reviewing its seafood certification standard and Make Stewardship Count is watching both the process and results closely. Is the process open, inclusive and clear to everyone? Will the Fisheries Standard Review (FSR) make the critical changes needed to ensure all certified fisheries are applying global best practices?

Transparency of Engagement and Decision Making
Request for Transparency
Critical changes needed to improve the MSC Standard
Critical Changes

Transparency of Engagement and Decision Making

2022-01-05T16:24:47+00:00January 5th, 2022|

Transparency of Stakeholder Engagement & Decision Making in the Marine Stewardship Council

It’s crucial that MSC adopts best practices for transparent consultation during this review. Stakeholders must understand who is invited to engage and why, how best to engage, how input is used, and how and why decisions are made at each step of the way. We are rating MSC against our best practice recommendations that draw from the leading literature on consultation as well as our members’ many years of experience engaging with the MSC programme.

January 2022

This rating covers the 2021 public consultation phase on the FSR, which included – invite-only workshops and several rounds of public surveys on individual review topics including; Identifying further solutions to ensure MSC certified fisheries are not involved in shark finning, Supporting the prevention of gear loss and ghost fishing, Clarifying best practice for reducing impacts on endangered, threatened and protected species, Reviewing Principle 1 with a focus on harvest strategies, Timelines for transitioning to a new Standard, Ensuring effective fisheries management systems are in place, Fisheries Certification Process Review.

Meets Expectations Improving Below Expectations NOTE: Click on each “finger icon” for more information.
  • Outline each process as early as possible with clear timelines and show how related processes are linked
    • The invite-only workshops were not made public until afterwards, with the release of summary reports on the workshops. The summary reports do not provide any links to the next steps or decisions derived from these workshops.
    • The framework for public and open engagement has been unclear, specifically what opportunities for engagement would be presented and when, as well as the process for making input publicly available and the next steps for decisions.
  • Demonstrate a strategy of stakeholder selection
    • The decision making processes for deciding who could participate in the invite-only workshops were unclear. It is unclear why invite-only workshops were chosen as the engagement plan, leaving some stakeholders that have been heavily involved in certain topics feeling disengaged.
    • Surveys were accessible to all stakeholders.
  • Give stakeholders multiple entry points for engagement
    • Stakeholders were given several opportunities for engagement through public consultation surveys on various review topics.
  • Allow all stakeholders to assist with designing the process
    • Stakeholders were not involved in the final selection and prioritisation of topics for consultations, and many topics were not opened for stakeholder consultation. The reason for this remains unknown.
  • Be clear about the goals of the process from the start
    • Understanding what the goals are at each step of the process continues to be difficult due to a lack of a clearly stated framework for each workstream.
    • In many cases, the areas for review and the options presented for changes and/or additions to the standard were very narrow and incomplete. It is unclear if/how stakeholder suggestions for alternatives will be taken into account in the final draft.
  • Demonstrate the current stage of the process of consultation, and the decision that led to it
    • It is unclear how input provided to date will be used by the staff, TAB, and STAC in shaping proposals for the Board on the final draft standard.
      • No updated conclusions or proposals have been published based on the outcome of this recent round of consultations and prior to the internal discussions on how to proceed in 2022.
      • We will not see any further information until the release of the proposed standard on 1 February 2022 for consultation until 4 April (60 days).
  • Allow full access to all the information provided during the process
    • It is unclear if all commissioned research reports have been made public.
    • Workshop reports from 2020 are now available and include workshop background information, participant data for workshops and written submissions, and full workshop transcripts.
    • Reports from consultation topics and surveys in 2021 were not shared directly with participants and are difficult to find. In the consultation summary reports, overall insights to a range of opinions and options are not readily accessible as they are provided only as raw transcripts.
    • Impact assessment reports were provided, but for some topics only, with analysis of stakeholder input, MSC considerations, and rationale on proposed options for change. These have been an important source of information.
  • Allow stakeholders to share information and address gaps by being open about who will be, or was, involved in the process
    • Lack of clarity remains on who will be involved in discussions on the final draft standard i.e. participation by invited experts in upcoming Technical Advisory Board and Stakeholder Advisory Council meetings.
  • Share the decision-making framework and rationale for each step of the process:
    • Who is involved in decision-making, at which level, and who leads the process?
    • What criteria are used to make decisions and how are they ranked?
    • What decision rules are used to finalize the decision?

    • The decision making process at the level of detail included in this indicator for the next steps remains unclear.
    • Information is public indicating the Board will decide, in January 2022, which changes will be included in the final draft standard proposal, but who will influence this decision and the rationale behind these decisions remain unclear.
    • This is of particular concern as this time period in the last Standard review was flagged by many stakeholders as highly influential to outcomes, but very opaque.
    • In early 2021 there seemed to be some improvement of the information provided to stakeholders, however, now that we are nearing the end of the process it remains clear that the decision-making process is not transparent and stakeholders are not aware of the rationale behind many decisions.
    • Based on the available information, it appears that no observers were allowed to attend the TAB meeting despite the published terms of reference indicating otherwise and having received several applications from stakeholders to attend as observers.
  • Regularly review the stakeholder engagement process
    • MSC released a stakeholder engagement survey in November 2021 regarding the FSR processes this year, but it is unclear whether the outcome of the survey will have any influence on the remaining FSR process.

Critical changes needed to improve the MSC Standard

2022-01-05T16:24:32+00:00January 5th, 2022|

Critical requirements necessary to improve marine stewardship council principle 2

The MSC Standard should reflect global best practices in fisheries management and drive positive change on the water. We are watching to see how the current Fisheries Standard Review (FSR) addresses the critical flaws the Make Stewardship Count coalition of experts has identified in the current standard. To reduce the ecological impacts of certified fisheries, the revised Standard must:

January 2022

This rating covers the 2021 public consultation phase on the FSR, which included invite-only workshops and several rounds of public surveys on individual review topics including; Identifying further solutions to ensure MSC certified fisheries are not involved in shark finning, Supporting the prevention of gear loss and ghost fishing, Clarifying best practice for reducing impacts on endangered, threatened and protected species, Reviewing Principle 1 with a focus on harvest strategies, Timelines for transitioning to a new Standard, Ensuring effective fisheries management systems are in place, Fisheries Certification Process Review.

Meets Expectations Improving Below Expectations NOTE: Click on each “finger icon” for more information.
  • Cumulative impact assessment required for all species caught by ALL fisheries (MSC and non MSC) in the same area
    • Proposed changes to ETP cumulative impacts scoring still does not include consideration of the impact of non-MSC fisheries on the species of concern.
    • ETP scoring proposed changes mean combined effects of MSC fisheries would always be assessed, which is an improvement on status quo, however, problematically this would only be done at ‘best practice’ or above (80 or 100) and not at the certification entry level of 60.
  • Application of precautionary principle and best science is used to 1) designate a species as ‘ETP’ and 2) assess fishery impacts on those species
    • How species are designated ETP in the Standard is a focus topic.
    • The proposal in June 2021 does not adequately address the impact of fisheries on ETP species and designation remains confusing and dependent on national legislation which varies.
    • Proposed changes create a more comprehensive framework for how a species can be designated ETP for MSC scoring, however, species could still be excluded from the ETP designation if there is a national level recovery management plan. The currently proposed criteria to assess the quality of such plans is still vague and open to interpretation, similar to the current Standard.
  • ETP species should be inclusive of, but not limited to, all IUCN Red List ‘threatened’ categories
    • The proposal provided in June 2021, with an accompanying online survey, immediately classifies out of scope species (amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals) as ETP. However, for in-scope species, including sharks and rays, there were options that would not include all threatened IUCN Red List threatened categories.
    • The best option proposed still excludes the IUCN category of ‘Vulnerable’.
  • Prerequisite for certification: bycatch must not exceed a risk based maximum percentage of catch
    • Not included in the FSR terms of reference or in related workshops and consultations
  • Progressive reduction of bycatch during certification
    • Conditions that define risk based annual bycatch reduction rates
    • Verification of achieved bycatch reduction during surveillance audits

    • Risk-based assessment options were included in the proposal, however, the details of how this approach would be applied remain unclear and it is not clear if this will make it into the draft standard.
    • Progressive reduction of bycatch has not been mentioned in any part of the process thus far. The ambiguous term ‘minimize impact’ continues to be proposed for ETP bycatch.
  • Prerequisite for certification: no fishing methods that include the intentional encirclement of marine mammals or ETP species
    • This continues to be a concern which the MSC is not addressing.
  • Prerequisite for certification: All fisheries interacting with sharks (elasmobranchs) must have a ‘fins naturally attached’ (FNA) policy implemented and enforced
    • The proposed change is presented as addressing the stated goal to ‘improve confidence and transparency that shark finning is not occurring in MSC fisheries’ and ‘ensure requirements deliver confidence in a zero-tolerance approach.’ However, it ultimately retains the status quo by allowing fisheries that target sharks to seek exemptions from a simple, clear Fins Naturally Attached rule. MSC continues down this path, despite a clear outcome from the public consultation that this proposal is not best practice, will not resolve finning, and is not accepted by the majority of stakeholders.
  • All fishing practices used by the fishery must be assessed during certification
    • Upon recertification all remaining fishing techniques have improved to the Standard

    • The revised Fisheries Certification Process (FCP) in 2019 ensured that certified fisheries will no longer be able to target a stock using both certified and non-certified fishing practices with the same gear (known as compartmentalisation).
    • In hindsight, we recognise that this category should have received a green listing in our last round of scorecards, as it has met one of our critical requirements. However, given there are still critical improvements needed to the Fisheries Standard, ending compartmentalization has yet to result in significant differences on the water for certified fisheries.
  • All ‘main’ species of the catch must meet the same criteria as target species (P1) even if discarded
    • Not included in the FSR Terms of Reference for target or other main species.
    • Harvest control rules for Principle 1 are under review during the FSR, a proposal was provided in 2021 with a consultation survey.
    • The proposal did not bring forward changes here and only mentioned a ‘phased condition pathway’ to meet conditions to adopt harvest strategies and HCRs.
  • Overfishing (F>Fmsy) is prohibited for all ‘main’ species of the catch
    • Not included in the FSR Terms of Reference for target or other main species.
    • Harvest control rules for Principle 1 are under review during the FSR, but the consultation document did not mention this point.
  • Prerequisite to Certification: No bottom fisheries in known or likely VME areas
    • Was not addressed in this phase of the FSR and consultations
  • Benthic impacts must be reversible in less than 10 years
    • Prerequisite to certification: 50% of benthic habitat type in a region closed to all fishing

    • Proposals and consultations in 2021 did not address these issues – the current definition for ‘irreversible damage’ as ‘recover in 20 years or more’ remains and protection or closure thresholds are not being considered.
  • Prerequisite for certification: risk based qualitative and quantitative data requirements exist for bycatch reporting
    • Consistent data requirement for comparable fisheries

    • Quality, type, and verification of data has been a focal topic in the Review with workshops and consultations
    • Risk based assessment options were proposed in the spring 2021 consultations during invitation-only workshops. However, the summary report provided no clarity on how this risk assessment will be done, and it is unclear if MSC will pursue such additions to the standard.
    • The as yet undefined outcomes of this Review topic are linked in consultation documents to a number of other Review topics. Without clear proposals on this key topic tabled yet, it is difficult to fully assess the potential changes in the other areas under Review.
  • Upon request stakeholders must have access to all data used for scoring of fishery by CABs (including, inter alia, AIS, VMS, EM, observer raw data)
    • No further discussion on this topic since the Phase 1 workshops in 2020 and it may be part of the data adequacy topic, but it remains unclear if this will be addressed in the draft standard.
  • Peer review should be included in any annual audit where conditions are closed
    • Possibility for stakeholder objection to surveillance audit outcomes

    • Conditions were addressed in the 2019 FCP Review.
    • Peer review is now required, but stakeholder objection is still not possible.
  • No recertification prior to verified fulfilment of all conditions
    • Condition extension was tightened in the 2019 FCP review however, extension of conditions is still allowed in some circumstances.

Make Stewardship Count, other stakeholders, and researchers continue to raise concerns about CAB impartiality and MSC accountability as the Standard holder. Neither of the following topics has been taken up in the Fisheries Standard Review and MSC has ignored these concerns.

  • Ensure impartiality of the assessment, certification and audit processes, CABs must be independently assigned
    • Not addressed during FCP or announced for FSR.
  • MSC must be proactive and intervene in case of urgent and obvious problems
    • No evidence of improvement apparent so far.