The MSC Assurance Review

The MSC is currently reviewing its assurance system to increase its effectiveness and address real or perceived issues within the system. The review will run from 2018-2020.

The work areas of the Assurance Review have been prioritised in response to stakeholder feedback and investigations.

The MSC has continually improved its Assurance System. In 2011, the MSC undertook a major review of the system (conducted by the Board of Trustees appointed Credibility Working Group, CWG) and has introduced over 30 additional safeguards over the years.

These safeguards include:

  • outsourcing the accreditation function to an independent third party (Assurance Services International, ASI)
  • creating an annual meeting between CABs, ASI and the MSC (the tripartite meetings) introducing additional technical oversight of assessment products
  • developing clarifications to assist auditing against particular parts of its Standard, introducing new training systems and the independent Peer Review College which provides scrutiny of fishery assessments. 

A history of MSC assurance

2006 Accreditation outsourced - ASI appointed as external oversight body of MSC CABs.

Board appointed Credibility Working Group (CWG) created to implement recommendations of the Gould Report, a credibility review undertaken in 2011 (related improvements made 2011-2014).

2013 ASI compliance assessments with ISO 17011 introduced.

ASI increases transparency about its own competence including descriptions of internal training and calibration, ISEAL accreditation membership.

ASI-MSC-CAB Annual Tripartite meeting introduced.

Online training platform introduced by the MSC for auditor and assessor training.
2014 Fisheries Certification Requirements and Standard revised.

Peer Review College launched following pilot.

Program Scope and Assurance Working Group formed by the Board to initiate an Assurance Review.

Assurance Review Announced: MSC Jan 2018: MSC Sets out Agenda to Strengthen Assurance Model and Revisions to Certification Requirements

Assurance Roundtable stakeholder dialogue held to inform the Assurance Review.

The MSC Stakeholder Advisory Council and Technical Advisory Board supported the work areas of the Assurance Review.
2019 The Assurance Review work areas approved by the Board of Trustees.


The key components of the Assurance Review have been identified through stakeholder consultation and prior investigations into the strengths and weaknesses of the assurance system.

Feedback on the assurance system has been received via targeted consultation with stakeholders (including the Assurance Roundtable in April 2018 and Program and Assurance Working Group in October 2018), issues raised directly by stakeholders (including WWF and a coalition of eNGOs) and through internal review as part of the regular operational evaluation of our system (including the MSC-CAB-ASI Tripartite meeting, and assurance oversight by ASI).

The Assurance Review work areas are listed in the table below (this list will be updated as we make progress).

The Assurance Review

Work areaDescription
Peer Review College The Peer Review College provides a review of the draft certification report carried out by an independent fishery scientists with similar expertise to the assessment team (the Peer Review members are independent of the MSC and the assessment team). Build on strong, widespread support for PRC with improvements to transparency of outcomes and quality assurance.
Assessor Training Program The assessment team are experts in the field and auditors. This work area will seek to improve effectiveness of assessor training provided via the online platform and extend in-person calibration and training to support consistent outcomes.
CAB to Client Conflict of Interest The MSC is aware there are perceived issues with conflict of interest in our model of certification. This work considers the MSC’s certification model—including a review of certification decision making—compared to peers and all conflict of interest controls applicable to the CAB and auditors that safeguard the assurance system.
Dispute Resolution Mechanisms  Reviewing the objections procedure and response to the input of stakeholders during the certification process to increase trust in the process.
Conditions and FCP Improvements Review setting, evaluation and closure of conditions to ensure consistent and rigorous application of requirements. Conditions are how certified fisheries demonstrate continuous improvement.
MSC to Certification System Conflict of Interest This work will review the MSC’s involvement in assurance related procedures, including Variations, Interpretations, Technical Oversight and Outreach Team activities to ensure effective management of risk to impartiality.
Communications Improve awareness and understanding of the MSC assurance system and its improvement over time, by stakeholders to address misperceptions.
Oversight Working closely with Assurance Services International, we will increase the MSC’s ability to track effectiveness of the assurance system using an improved evaluation framework to inform decision making.