MSC Certification : Marine Stewardship Council

Fishing is essential in many ways, but it faces major challenges such as overfishing and pollution. In this context, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) offers certification to ensure the sustainability of seafood products. The MSC label distinguishes products of wild fishing respectful of the environment and biodiversity. Its recognizable blue logo guides consumers towards responsible choices.

What is MSC Certification : Marine Stewardship Council ?

The MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certification is an eco-label distinguishing products from wild fisheries that meet strict standards of sustainability, traceability and responsible management. Its main objective is to promote sustainable fishing and enhance the fisheries involved in this approach.

This label also offers consumers a reliable way to recognise products with MSC certification, identifiable by a distinctive blue fish logo.

MSC certification is based on the MSC Fisheries Standard, a rigorous standard examining the state of fish stocks, the environmental impacts of fishing and the relevance of the management system in place. This standard is aligned with global best practices defined by renowned institutions such as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the Global Initiative for Sustainable Seafood (GSSI) and the ISEAL Alliance.

Independent and accredited entities are responsible for delivering MSC certification after conducting thorough audits of candidate fisheries. To maintain this food certification, fisheries must not only comply with the MSC Fisheries Standard criteria, but also commit to a continuous improvement approach and undergo periodic reviews. By being MSC certified, fisheries enjoy international recognition and increased access to markets that demand sustainably harvested products.

Which organizations offer MSC certification ?

Contrary to popular belief, MSC certification is not awarded directly by the MSC, but by independent, accredited third-party certification bodies. These bodies carry out in-depth audits and assess the fisheries seeking certification. They adhere to high standards of competence, impartiality and transparency, and are subject to rigorous oversight by both the MSC and internationally recognized accreditation bodies. To date, more than 20 such organisations are authorised to issue MSC certification worldwide.

How to choose a certification body ?

In order for your fishery or company to acquire MSC certification, it is necessary to select a certification body corresponding to your specific needs: geographical area, targeted species and mode of fishing. The MSC offers on its website a complete list of the bodies authorized to carry out the assessments necessary to obtain the MSC label. It is recommended to contact different organizations to compare their service proposals and pricing, in order to find the offer that best suits your requirements.

What is the role of the MSC in the certification process ?

The MSC plays a central role in developing and updating the certification criteria, as well as overseeing the overall certification program. Although the MSC does not conduct fishery assessments itself, it ensures the quality and integrity of the processes conducted by certification bodies. He also acts as mediator in the event of a dispute or complaint related to certification. In addition, the MSC is active in promoting the MSC label, providing tools and resources to certified fisheries and businesses, to enhance their commitment to sustainable fishing practices.

What are the specific MSC certification requirements for my industry ?

MSC certification is open to all fisheries, regardless of their size, location, target species, or fishing methods used. To be awarded MSC certification, a fishery must meet the three fundamental principles of the MSC Fisheries Standard:

Principle 1 : Status of Fish Stocks

It is imperative that fisheries maintain fish stocks at a healthy and productive level, thus ensuring that their exploitation does not harm the regenerative capacity of species. In addition, bycatch of non-target species should be avoided or minimized as much as possible.

Principle 2 : Impact of fishing on the environment

Fisheries must minimize their impact on marine habitats, ecosystems and species that depend on them. They must also work to preserve the structure, diversity and functionality of marine ecosystems.

Principle 3 : Effective Management System

An adequate management system is essential to ensure compliance with current legislation, the integration of scientific and traditional knowledge, the involvement of stakeholders, and the promotion of continuous performance improvement.

To measure the adequacy of the above principles, fisheries are evaluated according to 28 performance indicators, on a scale of 60 to 100. A minimum score of 60 per indicator and 80 per principle is required for certification.

Fisheries rated between 60 and 80 for some indicators must commit to fixed improvements within a pre-defined timeframe.

What are the steps to obtain MSC certification ?

The MSC certification represents a detailed and transparent process for fisheries and companies that wish to validate their sustainable fishing practices. Key steps in the MSC certification process include:

Step 1 : Pre-Assessment

This first phase consists of evaluating the conformity of your activity with the criteria of the MSC Repository. It identifies strengths and weaknesses and assesses your readiness for certification. Although optional, pre-assessment is strongly recommended.

Step 2 : Full Assessment

A detailed and independent analysis of your fishery or business is carried out by an accredited certification body. This comprehensive assessment includes document review, site visits, stakeholder interviews, and an evaluation based on the MSC Repository. The duration of this evaluation varies from 6 to 18 months, depending on the complexity of the activity.

Step 3 : Evaluation Report and Public Consultation

A report detailing the results of the full assessment, the requirements for certification, and a recommendation are drafted and submitted to a 30-day public consultation. During this period, stakeholders may express their opinions or objections.

Step 4 : Certification Decision and Certificate Issuance

The final decision is based on the evaluation report and feedback from the public consultation. If the decision is favourable, the MSC certificate is granted for a 5-year cycle. In case of a negative decision, it is possible to appeal to the MSC.

Step 5 : Monitoring and Continuous Improvement

To maintain MSC certification, it is crucial to conduct annual audits and meet all the required conditions. It is also important to notify any major changes in your business that could impact your suitability for the MSC criteria. A commitment to continuous performance improvement is essential.

How much does an MSC certification cost ?

The MSC certification represents a major investment to highlight the commitment to sustainable fishing practices while benefiting from the international recognition of the MSC label. The price of this certification varies according to the nature and scope of the activity concerned and the certification entity chosen. MSC certifications come in two main categories: fisheries certification and chain of origin certification.

Fisheries certification

This certification is intended for fisheries wishing to prove their compliance with the three key principles of the MSC Fisheries Standard, which include the preservation of fish stocks, minimizing the environmental impact of fishing and the effectiveness of the management system. The costs of this certification, which must be covered by the fishery itself, vary greatly from one region to another, ranging from 15,000 to 120,000 euros depending on the complexity and specificities of the fishery, the commitment of the parties concerned and the duration of the evaluation process, which can range from 6 to 18 months.

Chain of origin certification

This certification is intended for companies operating in the seafood sector and who wish to market MSC certified products, with or without the affixing of the label. It ensures the traceability and identification of certified products throughout the supply chain, ensuring their clear separation from non-certified batches.

Like fisheries certification, the associated costs, which also include annual tariffs and royalties for the use of the MSC label, are borne by the company and depend on its size, the complexity of the operations and travel costs of the certification body. It is advisable to request several estimates to get the best value for money.

How long does it take to get an MSC certification ?

The MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certification certifies that seafood products come from sustainably managed and environmentally friendly fisheries. Obtaining this certification requires an evaluation process based on scientific and transparent criteria, which can vary according to the type of fishery and the supply chain.

The certification of fisheries

Voluntarily accessible to all wild fisheries, MSC certification is independent of size, environment, location, or fishing technique used. The evaluation is carried out by an independent accredited body and involves scientific experts. It is based on three pillars: stock health, ecosystem impact and fisheries management. Each of these pillars includes performance indicators from 0 to 100.

To be certified, a fishery must earn at least 60 points on each indicator, with corrective actions required for scores between 60 and 70. The evaluation process takes 12 to 18 months and costs between €15,000 and €100,000, depending on the complexity of the evaluation.

Certification of the chain of origin

Essential for companies marketing MSC-labelled seafood products, this certification ensures the traceability of products from the ocean to the plate. It requires clear identification, separation of uncertified products and recording of volumes. Certification depends on compliance with the MSC Chain of Custody System and is carried out by an accredited independent certification body. The time and associated costs are variable, influenced by the size of the company, the type of activity, as well as the rates and travel costs of the certification body.

The certification of masters of science

It is important to note that the Masters of Science (MSc) certification is separate from the MSC certification for seafood products. It is an educational program of level bac + 5, lasting from one to two years, offered by some French grandes écoles, with a strong international component. Aimed primarily at international students, but also open to French students, this program includes theoretical courses, practical work, projects, internships and a thesis. Fluency in a foreign language, usually English, is required. The duration of the training varies and the cost is between €10,000 and €20,000 per year.

Is there a renewal required for MSC certification ?

The MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) certification is a guarantee of sustainable and ecological origin for fishery products. In order to obtain this label, fisheries must adhere to three fundamental criteria: the conservation of fish populations, the reduction of the impact on the marine ecosystem, and an open and effective management of their operations. Importantly, MSC certification is not indefinitely awarded.

It requires a five-year renewal, during which an independent audit assesses whether the fisheries are still meeting the required standards. During this audit, if deficiencies are detected, corrective actions must be quickly implemented. In the event that the issues are too significant or are not resolved, certification may be suspended or even cancelled.

This constant renewal process ensures that the fishery products sold under this label continue to meet the high standards of the MSC. This is an assurance of quality and environmental commitment for consumers, as well as for fishermen and industry professionals.

What is the difference between MSC and MSC COC certification ?

The distinction between MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) and MSC COC (Chain of Custody) certification lies in their purpose, target audience, certification process, impact and benefits, as well as their logos and distinctive mentions.

Subject to certification

The MSC certification focuses on the validation of sustainable fisheries and seafood products from well-managed fisheries, while the MSC COC certification focuses on certifying the supply chain of MSC certified seafood, ensuring traceability and product integrity from the boat to the consumer.

Target audience

The main beneficiaries of the MSC certification are fisheries and seafood processing companies, while the MSC COC certification concerns distributors, importers, processors, restaurants and other businesses that market MSC certified seafood.

Certification process

The MSC certification process involves an independent and rigorous assessment of fishing practices against MSC standards, while MSC COC certification requires an audit of supply chain companies to ensure compliance with MSC certified product traceability and segregation requirements.

Impact and benefits

MSC certification encourages sustainable fishing and protection of fish stocks, while MSC COC certification assures consumers that the seafood they buy comes from sustainable and responsible sources.

Logo and distinctive markings

In terms of logo and mentions, the MSC certification is identifiable by a blue logo affixed to the certified seafood products, while the MSC COC certification is indicated by the mention "MSC Chain of Custody certified" on the documents and products.

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Revue documentaire

Voici la liste des documents nécessaires pour l'ouverture du dossier :
Proforma ou facture finale
Fiche descriptive pour chaque code de nomenclature
Rapports de test ou certificats d'analyse pour chaque code de nomenclature
Certificat de qualité ISO 9001 ou équivalent
Déclaration d'importation à demander à votre acheteur (selon la destination)


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