Glossary of terms

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Accreditation: Third-party attestation related to a Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) conveying formal demonstration of its competence to carry out specific conformity assessment tasks.

Accreditation body: An organisation that assesses whether or not CABs are competent to carry out conformity assessment(s) against specified standards. This includes MSC's contract accreditation body, Accreditation Services International (ASI).

Aquaculture stewardship council (ASC): a certification and labelling programme for responsibly framed aquatic organisms.

Accreditation services international (ASI) GmbH, provider of accreditation services for the MSC program.

Assessment: A process that connects knowledge and action regarding a problem. Review and analysis of information derived from research for the purpose of informing the decision making process. It may not require new research and involves assembling, organising, summarising, interpreting and reconciling existing knowledge, and communicating it to the policy-maker or other actors concerned by the problem. Assessment is used to refer to the initial certification and re-certifications of fisheries.

Assessment tree: The hierarchy of the principles, components, performance indicators and scoring guideposts that is used as the basis for assessment of the fishery for conformity with the MSC principles and criteria for sustainable fishing.

Audit: Systematic, independent and documented process for obtaining audit evidence and evaluating it objectively to determine the extent to which the audit criteria are fulfilled. Audit is used to refer to the surveillance of fisheries and all chain of custody (CoC) audit activities.

Auditor: Person with the competence to conduct an audit.



Blim: Limit reference points biomass

BMSY: Fish stock biomass associated with achieving the maximum sustainable yield on an annual basis - reference point expected for MSC target stocks.

BPA: Precautionary biomass reference point.

Board of trustees (BOT): of  the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Bycatch species: Organisms that have been taken incidentally and are not retained (usually because they have no commercial value).



Catch and grow fisheries: Production systems that involve wild harvest followed by a grow-out phase (e.g. mussel farming based on wild spat collection).

Client Draft Report (CDR).

Certificate: A formal document issued by a conformity assessment body (CAB) or accreditation body as evidence that the party(ies) named on the certificate is in conformity with the standard(s) noted on the certificate for the scope given.

Certification: Procedure by which a third party gives written or equivalent assurance that a product, process or service conforms to specified requirements.

Certification body: See Conformity Assessment Body (CAB).

Certification requirements: Mandatory requirements applicable to conformity assessment bodies (CABs).

Certified: Certificate of conformity to an MSC standard granted by an accredited conformity assessment body (CAB).

Certified fishery: A fishery that has been granted a certificate of conformity to the MSC principles and criteria by a CAB.

Certifier: See Conformity Assessment Body, CAB.

Chain of custody: The procedures implemented by a fishery and subsequent entities handling fish and fish products to ensure that products from a certified fishery are not mixed with products from any other fishery and remain fully traceable during processing, storage, distribution and sale. Also known as 'CoC'.

Chain of Custody Program Review (CPR): In line with FAO ecolabelling guidelines and the ISEAL standard Setting Code, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has committed to undertake a review of the MSC chain of custody standard for seafood traceability during 2014 - 2015. The review aims to improve the accessibility and consistency of the MSC chain of custody program. Find out more about the CPR here.

Chain of custody standard: The MSC international standard applied for all chain of custody audits.

CITES: Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.

Client: The legal entity applying to the CAB for certification or that holds valid MSC certificate.

Convention of Migratory Species (CMS).

Component: The second level of three within the assessment tree structure.

Condition: A requirement to achieve outcomes in order to achieve a score of 80 or above.

Conformity: Fulfilment of a need or expectation that is stated, generally implied or obligatory.

Conformity assessment body (CAB): Performs conformity assessment services that can be the object of accreditation.

Consequence Spatial Analysis (CSA).

CPI: Corruption Perception Index



Default assessment tree: The standard assessment tree used as a starting point to develop an assessment tree for each fishery assessment.

Depleted: In the context of the MSC performance indicators and scoring guideposts (PISGs), means a stock that is consistently below the target reference point, and which may be approaching the point at which recruitment is impaired. Stocks below the point at which recruitment is impaired are not considered to be eligible for MSC certification.



eCert: MSC database - a modular database system for the administration and management of MSC's internal or external workflows.

Ecolabel: A label that conforms to the principles described in ISO 14020:2000 Environmental labels and declarations: General Principles.

Ecological Risk Assessment of Effect Fishing (ERAEF).

Endangered, threatened or protected species (ETP): Species recognised by national legislation and/or binding international agreements to which the jurisdictions controlling the fishery under assessment are party. Species listed under Appendix I of CITES shall be considered endangered, threatened or protected species for the purposes of the MSC assessment, unless it can be shown that the particular stock of the CITES listed species impacted by the fishery under assessment is not endangered.

Enhanced fisheries: Any activity aimed at supplementing or sustaining the recruitment, or improving the survival and growth of one or more aquatic organisms, or at raising the total production or the production of selected elements of the fishery beyond a level that is sustainable by natural processes. It may involve stocking, habitat modification, elimination of unwanted species, fertilisation or combinations of any of these practices.



Fish Stock: The living resources in the community or population from which catches are taken in a fishery. Use of the term fish stock implies that the particular population is a biological distinct unit. In a particular fishery, the fish stock may be one or several species of fish or other aquatic organisms.

Fishers: Individuals who take part in fishing conducted from a fishing vessel, a floating or fixed platform, or from shore. Does not include fish processors or traders.

Fishery: A unit determined by an authority or other entity that is engaged in raising and/or harvesting fish. Typically, the unit is defined in terms of some or all of the following: people involved, species or type of fish, area of water or seabed, method of fishing, class of boats and purpose of the activities.

Fishing operators: Fishing vessels, other catching units, currently included in the client group assessed within the unit of certification.

Fisheries standard review (FSR): In line with FAO ecolabelling guidelines and the ISEAL standard Setting Code, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has committed to undertake a review of the MSC environmental standard for sustainable fishing during 2013-14. The review focuses on the MSC default assessment tree and other fishery client performance requirements.In addition, the MSC will undertake a speed and cost review of the fishery assessment process. Find out more about the FSR here.

FMSY: Fish mortality associated with achieving the maximum sustainable yield

Food and agriculture organisation of the united nations (FAO): One of the three standard setting organisations which governs the MSC.

Final Report (FR).


Guidance: Examples, explanations, illustrations, background and other information to help users understand MSC certification requirements.



Harvest control rule (HCR): is a set of well-defined pre-agreed rules or actions used for determining a management action in response to changes in indicators of stock status with respect to reference points.

Harvest strategy: The combination of monitoring, stock assessment, harvest control riles and management actions, which may include a management procedure or a set of rules for management of a resource that contains the elements of a management procedure, and be tested by Management Strategy Evaluation (MSE).

Hatch and catch fisheries: Production systems that involve the introduction of fish either as eggs, larvae or juvenile and subsequent recapture (e.g. salmon stocking).



International social, environment accreditation and labelling alliance (ISEAL): one of the three standard setting organisations which governs the MSC.

International organisation for standardisation (ISO)

Integrated strategic plan (ISP): The MSC's strategic business plan.







Lead assessor/ lead auditor: Assessor/ Auditor who is given the overall responsibility for specified assessment/ audit activities related to management systems conformity assessment/ audit.



Marine stewardship council (MSC).

Marine stewardship council international Ltd (MSCI).
MSC Online Transaction Solution (MOTs).

MSC certified fish: Whole fish or products that are, or are derived from, any aquatic organism harvested in a certified fishery, as defined in the unit of certification of a valid MSC certificate.

MSC accredited certification body: A CAB which is accredited by ASI to undertake certification audits of applicants for the MSC certification scheme, issue MSC certificates and the conduct surveillance with the scope set by ASI.

MSC certification standards: All MSC requirements as amended and re-issued from time to time in relation to the certification of fisheries or of chain of custody operators.

MSC database: A collection of records on the fishery and chain of custody certification program held by the MSC.

MSC ecolabel: The Type III Environment Label trademarked by MSC and licensed for use on products and to promote products certified by a certification body accredited to the MSC certification scheme. It is an 'ingredient brand' that reassures customers that independent, third party certification has been carried out to demonstrate the product comes from a sustainable fishery.

MSC standard: Either the MSC's principles and criteria for sustainable fishing or the chain of custody standard.

Management strategy evaluation (MSE): Usually synonymous with management procedure approach; often used to describe the process of testing generic management procedures or harvest strategies.

Maximum sustainable yield (MSY): The highest theoretical equilibrium yield that can be continuously taken (on average) from a stock under existing (Average) environmental conditions without affecting significantly the reproduction process.



Non-conformity: Failure of a conformity assessment body (CAB) to conform to one or more MSC Certification Requirements, or of a certificate holder to conform to any requirement of an MSC standard.



Overfished: A stock is considered "overfished" when exploited beyond an explicit limit beyond which its abundance is considered "too low" to ensure recruitment is not impaired. The stock may remain overfished (i.e. with a biomass well below the agreed limit) for some time even through fishing pressure might be reduced or suppressed.



Public Certification Report (PCR).

Performance Indicator (PI): The lowest level of sub-criterion of a MSC Criterion in the decision tree; the level at which the performance of the fishery is scored by the team.

Product Integrity Team (PIT).

Principle: A fundamental element, in the MSC's case, used as the basis for defining a well managed and sustainable fishery.

Productivity and susceptibility analysis (PSA): Used as the‘Level 2’ analysis in the risk based framework (RBF). This semi-quantitative approach examines several attributes of each species that contribute to or reflect its productivity or susceptibility, in order to provide a relative measure of the risk to the scoring element from fishing activities. The PSA is required when using the RBF to score target species in P1, and may also be triggered for retained species or bycatch species in P2. Each species (scoring element) identified within a given PI is assigned its own PSA score.

Program improvement: A program improvement describes a proposed change to the MSC's processes or standards. It is tightly focused so each issue can be dealt with separately. Learn more here.

Public Comment Draft Report (PCDR): The draft report of the assessment of the fishery prepared by the team and the Conformity Assessment Body (CAB) released for public comment. Follows peer review draft report. Precedes final report.





Re-assessment: Assessment of a fishery within two years of the expiration of a valid fishery certificate.

Reference points: There are two main types of reference points: (1) Target Reference Point; (2) Limit Reference Point.

Retained species: Species that are retained by the fishery, usually because they are commercially valuable or because they are required to be retained by management rules.

Risk based framework (RBF): A framework of assessment tools for scoring 'outcome' Performance Indicators in cases where insufficient information is available to score a fishery using the default Scoring Guideposts. See productivity and susceptibility analysis and scale intensity consequence analysis.

Regional fisheries management organisation (RFMO).



Scheme document: Official documents setting out rules and procedures for accreditation, certification, assessment and audit relevant to the MSC certification scheme.

Scope: Can mean scope of certification or scope of accreditation or both depending on context.

Scope of certification: Specific activities and products for which certification is sought or has been granted.

Scoring elements: A list of matters that are to be taken into account when determining the performance score on an indicator; also the matters used in determining a scoring guidepost benchmark. In the case principles 1 or 2, used to mean a sub-division of individual parts of the ecosystem affected by the fishery, such as different species/ stocks/ sub-stocks or habitats within a component.

Scoring guidepost (SG): The benchmark level of performance established by the team in respect of each numeric score or rating for each indicator sub-criterion.

Speed and cost review (SCR): Review process taking place as part of the fisheries standard review.

Scale intensity consequence analysis (SICA): Used as the 'Level 1' analysis in the risk based framework. This qualitative approach identifies the activities mostly likely to be associated with 'worst case' impacts on any species, habitat or ecosystem. A SICA is best conducted with the participation of a diverse group of stakeholders who are able to provide a range of knowledge about the fishery under assessment.

Species: Refers to any or all of stocks, populations, individual species, or groupings of species, depending on the context. In context such as bycatch there may be a large number of individual species taken in a fishery, such that it is impractical and inefficient to attempt to address status and impact of each species individually. In such cases it is acceptable to group species with similar biological characteristics into species groups, and evaluate outcome status and fishery impact for the species groups.

Stakeholder: Any person or group (including governmental and non-governmental institutions, traditional communities, universities, research institutions, development agencies and banks, donors, etc.) with an interest or claim (whether stated or implied) which has the potential of being impacted by or having an impact on a given project and its objectives. Stakeholder groups that have a direct or indirect "stake" can be at the household, community, local, regional, national, or international level.

Standard: A document established by consensus and approved by a recognized body that provides for common and repeated use, rules, guidelines or characteristics for activities or their results, aimed at the achievement of the optimum degree of order in a given context.

Stock assessment: An integrated analysis of information to estimate the status and trends of a population against benchmarks such as reference points.

Stakeholder council (Stc): of the MSC.

Surveillance audit: The periodic or random review and assessment of a certificate holder's activities in order to determine ongoing conformity with standards and compliance with conditions and/or non-conformities raised.

Suspension in part: Temporarily lifting the application of a license to use the MSC Ecolabel to specific products of a licensee covered by its license agreement with MSCI.

Suspension in whole: Temporarily lifting the application of a license to use the MSC Ecolabel to all products of a licensee covered by lits license agreemtn with MSCI.

Suspension of accreditation: Process of temporarily making MSC accreditation invalid, in full or in part of the scope of accreditation.

Suspension of certification: Process of temporarily making MSC certification invalid, in full or for part of the scope of certification.



TAB directive: A document approved by the Technical Advisory Board, usually providing a ruling or interpretation about an aspect of the MSC Principles and criteria, Chain of Custody Standard or other documents from the MSC certification scheme.

Target reference point (TRP): The point which corresponds to a state of a fishery and/or resource which is considered desirable and which management is trying to achieve.

Target stock(s): Those fish stocks which have been assessed under Principle 1 of the MSC Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing.

Technical advisory board (TAB): A body appointed by the Board of Trustees.

Total allowable catch (TAC): The total catch allowed to be taken from a resource in a specified period usually (a year), as defined in the management plan. The TAC may be allocated to the stakeholders in the form of quotas as specific quantities or proportions.

TASC: Traceability and Assurance in the Supply Chain

Traceback or tracing: The activity to identify the origin of a specified unit and/or batch of product located within the supply chain by reference to records held by individuals or companies that hold MSC Chain of Custody certification. In the MSC's context a specified unit and/or batch of product are fish, fish materials or fish products from a certified fishery.

Target reference point (TRP): The point which corresponds to a state of a fishery and/or resource which is considered desirable and which management is trying to achieve.



UMAF: Under MSC-Assessment Fish

Unit of certification (UoC): The target stock(s) combined with the fishing method/gear and practice (including vessel/s) pursuing that stock.

Unit of potential certification: See Unit of Certification, UoC.



Variation: When the MSC grants an exception to a CAB to follow a process for an assessment that is slightly different to the standard requirements but shown to be similar in achieving the overall intent.



World Trade Organisation (WTO).