Background

Following the MSC Fisheries Standard Review in 2014, the MSC has included clear policy on the issue of forced labour*. 

From 1 April 2015, fisheries or supply chain companies successfully prosecuted for forced labour violations in the previous 2 years shall be ineligible for MSC certification. To ensure that a certification entity remains eligible for MSC certification with respect to forced labour violations, companies, fishery client group members and their subcontracted parties should ensure compliance with national and international laws on forced labour and follow relevant guidance where available (version 2.0 of the MSC Fisheries Certification Requirements).

On 20 July 2016, the MSC further announces its intention to enhance its certification scheme by introducing a risk-based approach that assures the public that labour practices throughout the MSC certified supply chain, from ocean to consumer, meet international accepted norms. 

For fisheries, public and targeted 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.

* All work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily (International Labour Organisation Forced Labour Convention, 1930: Article 2 paragraph 1). This includes all unethical labour practices recognised under law as forced labour, including debt bondage, trafficking and other forms of modern slavery.