Control Union UK specialises in providing Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification services, with more than ten years’ experience successfully certifying fisheries around the world. Control Union UK provides several MSC-related services.
First and foremost is the MSC pre-assessment, which is a gap analysis against the MSC Fisheries Standard. The objective of a pre-assessment is to broadly identify which principle areas might require improvement for a fishery to be eligible for MSC certification. Any issues in a fishery’s activity (be it environmental impact or management strategy) are discerned, which allows the fishery to adequately prepare and implement changes in readiness for a full assessment.
In the event a fishery is deemed not to be ready for a MSC Full Assessment. Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) are a pathway for fisheries to make progress towards better sustainability and eventually attain MSC certification.
FIPs are important as they demonstrate improvements to a fishery and performed in an objective and credible manner. Some of the key elements of a FIP include: Completion of a MSC Pre-Assessment (gap analysis), Development of a measured improvement plan, regular monitoring, and verification of progress. A clear timetable with milestones and deadlines (normally not exceeding 5 years).
Taking each element in turn, the results from a MSC pre-assessment may form the basis for a fishery to engage in a FIP.
FIPs generally work by uniting fishery stakeholders such as fishers, researchers, funders, managers, and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) with the aim of advancing the sustainability of a fishery (this is usually accomplished through series of stakeholder meetings)., a result of this would be the drafting of a measurable improvement plan in agreeance with all parties involved. The improvement plan includes objectives, timelines and milestones for each point that requires improvement. In due course, the aim is to close the gaps highlighted at the pre-assessment stage.
Upon successful completion of the improvement action plan, fisheries can enter full assessment or update their pre-assessment with another gap analysis. A fishery may go through several iterations of a FIP process before a decision is made to engage in the Full Assessment.
Fisheries Progress (https://fisheryprogress.org/) keep a database of fisheries that are engaged in FIPS and mandates that a comprehensive FIP should be independently verified every 3 years to remain on the database. CU UK offer a verification service for FIPS against the prevailing MSC standard that would validate their continued presence on the database.
MSC have developed a program called “In-Transition to MSC” (ITM) to support fisheries that wish to engage in credible FIPs. This program offers fisheries independent verification of their progress through a FIP, and a chance to realise funding through the MSC Ocean Stewardship Fund in support of their activities.
The MSC also support the progress of fisheries towards MSC certification with their set of online fishery improvement tools fishery improvement tools. CU UK offers verification services for fisheries engaged in the ITM program.
The full assessment is a comprehensive, transparent, and independent MSC assessment process, where a fishery is audited against the MSC Fisheries Standard. During a full assessment, the management of the fishery is assessed as well as the fishery’s impact on the target stock and the environment. These assessments are accessible to all fisheries, regardless of size, location, or information availability (risk-based frameworks exist in order to assess the latter). Full assessments can only be carried out by an accredited certification body.