Scoring of fishing subsidies (PI 3.1.4)

There is an absence of clear guidance from the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on the issue of fishing subsidies, where the current Agreement on Subsidies and Countervailing Measure focuses on trade restricting effects and not sustainability outcomes. Thus in the original drafting of Performance Indicator (PI) 3.1.4 the MSC concentrated on “incentives” and “perverse incentives”. Furthermore, because of the potentially wide range of issues that could be consider “subsidies”, and the way that administrations use these, the PI is specific in linking subsidies to a requirement for achieving sustainability under Principle 1 (P1) and P2.

Assessment teams have continually had difficulty in really addressing this issue to identify negative incentives and scoring the PI. Only 4 fisheries out of 144 assessed against a default tree have scored less than 80 on PI 3.1.4, and for all but one of these the reason was a perverse incentive that had arisen from conflicting management regulations, rather than subsidies.

Input from stakeholders on PI 3.1.4 has been received a number of times. Stakeholders have recently suggested removing this PI, arguing that the effects of positive incentives/subsidies are demonstrated by the robustness of the management system and sustainability of the fishery, which are evaluated elsewhere in the assessment tree. The argument is frequently made that even if there are some subsidies (that would qualify as such under broad definitions) they cannot be creating a perverse incentive because the management system is sufficiently strong to score well under P1 and P2.

External review of management system (PI3.2.5)

Stakeholders have suggested that the MSC assessment itself delivers the requirements of PI 3.2.5: i.e. that it “constitutes a system for monitoring and evaluating the performance of the fishery-specific management system against its objectives” and an “effective and timely review of the fishery-specific management system”. If this is the case PI 3.2.5 could be removed. To avoid the potential that some elements of transparency would be lost if this was done, some stakeholders have also suggested that the MSC require publication of all key scoring references used in MSC assessments if PI 3.2.5 was to be removed.

This issue was considered by the MSC Executive and by the Technical Advisory Board Working Groups leading up to this consultation, who have recommended that the MSC assessment itself should not count as an external review of the fisheries management system for the purposes of this PI. However further stakeholder input is sought on this issue, and on how to ensure that the requirement for external review does not pose an unreasonable obstacle to small scale and developing world fisheries.

Research plan requirements (PI 3.2.4)

Stakeholders have suggested that the requirement for a research plan under P3 generates redundancy with respect to the management and information requirements elsewhere in the CR. Specifically; there is redundancy with PI 1.2.3 (information/monitoring) and P2 information PIs, where the availability of information adequate to support fisheries management is considered. Although the existing requirements for PI 3.2.4 require that the scoring is not duplicated with information requirements in P1 and P2, in practice this is precisely where research pertinent to the fishery will be considered. Furthermore any conditions set in PI 3.1.4 also relate to planning and undertaking research either strategically or specifically to provide management information.