Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Fishery Certification

An independent, international, non-profit organization founded in 1996, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) manages a program to assess all wild-capture fisheries and certify them as “sustainable” if they meet criteria in the MSC Fisheries Standard.

Through certification, the Marine Stewardship Council acknowledges those select fisheries that meet its sustainable fishing benchmarks. MSC published an updated Fisheries Standard (version 3.0) in October 2022. 

If more fisheries worldwide become capable of meeting MSC’s fishery and chain-of-custody standards, the global seafood supply chain will become more traceable and sustainable. Helping global tuna fisheries meet sustainability criteria to achieve the Marine Stewardship Council certification standard — without conditions — is ISSF’s ultimate objective.

    Our Role in MSC Fishery Certification

    ISSF does not assess or certify fisheries. Certification is a Marine Stewardship Council function.

    As a stakeholder, however, ISSF engages with MSC to help improve the standards and ensure consistency among MSC’s fishery assessments. We also submit technical comments on MSC certification and assessment processes, publish research based on MSC criteria, and develop resources for fisheries seeking MSC certification.


    Tuna Fisheries & MSC Assessment or Certification

    MSC has certified about 300 fisheries worldwide, approximately 50 of which are tuna fisheries

    Ideally, all tuna would be sourced from MSC-certified fisheries, and all fisheries would receive an 80-100 score on each MSC Performance Indicator (PI) — that is, receive MSC certification without “conditions.” 

    Purse-seine tuna fisheries that use drifting FADs, which harvest the majority of the world’s tuna, are capable of achieving MSC certification if they follow science-based best practices.

    MSC Scores & Sustainability

    During an MSC assessment, fisheries assessors examine a fishery’s policies, processes, and outcomes based on 28 performance indicators (PIs) under the three principles of the MSC Fisheries Standard.

    On each PI, the fishery receives a score from 0-100. Those individual scores create an aggregate score that determines whether a fishery will receive certification (for a score 80-100) or “conditional” certification (60-79) — or fail (59 or below).

    MSC weights some PIs more than others in scoring, so a fishery can receive an overall “fail” even if it has only one individual PI failing score.

    Fishery MSC Certification Support

    To help fisheries remediate their performance in problem areas — or close conditions so they can maintain MSC certification — ISSF offers technical services as well as online resources, including best practices reports and checklists for purse-seine and longline fisheries.


    Our Strategic Plan

    Our “Advancing Sustainable Tuna Fisheries” strategic-plan microsite outlines ISSF’s priorities, goals, and work for 2018-2022 — covering seafood industry commitment, bycatch mitigation, FAD management, fighting illegal fishing, harvest strategies, and more.

    ISSF’s Board of Directors sets the organization’s strategic direction. Download a PDF of our strategic plan from the site.