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Current stage:

Issue Prioritisation Development Selection Implementation

Improvement overview

In recognition of widespread concern about labour abuses in the global seafood supply chain, the MSC is working to extend our existing provisions on forced labour and provide greater assurance that forced and child labour violations are not taking place in fisheries and supply chain companies that hold MSC certificates.

Current status

Following the MSC Board approval in June 2016, the MSC intends to work with, and learn from current social standards and initiatives, as well as our fishery and supply chain contacts, to understand their needs and expectations.

A final solution for new fisheries and at-sea supply chain requirements is being select after public consultation in March 2018.

There will also be one more round of public consultation for new on-shore supply chain requirements opening later in August/September 2018 before a final solution is selected.

The last round of public consultation has shown that there is not yet an internationally applicable ‘norm’ or standard for at-sea labour practices.

Existing social standards such as Fairtrade USA and the Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS) are currently applicable at local scales, however are not yet ready to be adopted by international fleets.

This means that while it is not currently possible for the MSC to adopt internationally applicable forced and child labour requirements for fisheries and off-shore supply chains, we hope to be able to address this by 2020.

However, there is a far greater availability and maturity of labour auditing systems for land-based facilities. By working with these existing programs, the MSC will be able to offer greater assurance that forced and child labour are not taking place in on-shore supply chain companies that hold MSC certificates

Therefore, different requirements will be adopted for on-shore operations and fishery/at-sea operations.

Planned work

Phased introduction for fisheries and off-shore operations

The MSC anticipates introducing agreed new requirements for fisheries and at-sea supply chains in two phases:

Phase I to be implemented in 2018:

As part of the MSC assessment process fisheries and at-sea supply chains will be required to provide a self-disclosure document that reports on measures, policies and practices in place to ensure absence of forced and child labour.

The objective of the self-disclosure document is to require companies to communicate how they address any potential risk of forced or child labour. It is not a declaration of the absence of forced labour violations. The self-disclosure form will be made public and posted within or alongside the full assessment or surveillance report.

Phase II proposed for implementation in 2020:

This second phase will see high risk fisheries and at-sea supply chain entities being required to undertake an audit against a third-party labour standard.

Defining ‘high-risk’ fisheries and off-shore supply chain entities is part of the Phase II workplan. The MSC is closely monitoring the progress of labour standards such as the Responsible Fishing Scheme (RFS) and FairTrade USA. Currently, these schemes are not applicable internationally, so would not be appropriate across all MSC certified fisheries.

New on-shore supply chain requirements

The wording of the proposed new requirements will be open to public consultation in August/September 2018. We expect new supply chain requirements to be released by February 2019.

Following extensive stakeholder consultation, the MSC Executive Committee has selected a proposed solution for providing greater assurance that forced and child labour are not taking place in supply chain companies that hold MSC certificates.

This risk-based approach will require certificate holders in high-risk countries who are engaged in certain activities to undergo an on-site audit against a recognised third-party labour program.

The currently proposed programs are SAI’s (Social Accountability International) SA8000, BSCI (Business Social Compliance Initiative) or SEDEX SMETA (Supplier Ethical Data Exchange (SEDEX) Members’ Ethical Trade Audit). The MSC is also looking into a benchmarking process for recognising other labour programs in the future.

Certificate holders identified as ‘high risk’ will be required to show evidence that they have passed/achieved a minimum score on the forced and child labour elements of a recognised labour program in order to remain part of the MSC program.

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