Leading Journal of the Irish & UK Fishing Industries

Fisheries are being offered a six-month extension on the usual timelines for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) assessments and certifications. It is the first time in the MSC’s 22-year history such a step has been taken, reflecting the enormous challenges the COVID-19 pandemic is posing to the global seafood industry.

The measures were agreed unanimously by the Board of Trustees and are effective from 27 March 2020. The decision means timelines for fisheries assessments, including audits, delivery on conditions and certifications will receive an automatic six-month extension.

However, fishery partners who wish to go ahead with remote audits and existing timelines, can do so if this is feasible and agreed with Conformity Assessment Bodies.

For supply chain businesses with an MSC Chain of Custody certificate, audits can still be conducted remotely. But if this is not possible due to the impacts of COVID-19, then a six-month extension can be requested.

This latest move is in response to the massive disruption facing the industry. It builds on MSC’s previous decision that fisheries and Chain of Custody certificate holders can be audited remotely, as travel restrictions and public health advice have made it increasingly difficult to carry out on-site visits.

The MSC team will be contacting fisheries, conformity assessment bodies and partners in the sustainable seafood supply chain with further information in the coming days. Other MSC activities, such as the licensing of products, will carry on as normal.

Rupert Howes, Chief Executive of MSC said, “This is an extraordinary moment in history, unprecedented in modern times. MSC is acutely aware that many of our partners are facing enormous challenges and uncertainty. For some it may be a question of survival.

“Whilst the regional situation varies, supply chains have been disrupted, in some cases broken, plants have been closed and vessels tied up. Management is quite rightly focusing on responding to the crisis.

“It is for this reason that we have implemented these new measures. MSC wants to do what it can to support our partners through these exceptionally challenging times.”