Background

There are currently 220 certified fisheries and 100 fisheries in full assessment in the MSC program. Requirements for Under-MSC-Assessment-Fish (UMAF) were originally developed to allow fisheries undergoing assessment to sell a greater amount of product to customers as eligible to carry the MSC ecolabel.

The existing UMAF requirements, however, are very complicated. Eligibility depends on the Target Eligibility Date (TED) and Actual Eligibility Date (AED) which are established separately by each fishery assessment team, and can change during the assessment period. Current requirements allow UMAF product to be traded only up until a certain point in the supply chain (one sale after first preservation) and each company wishing to handle UMAF needs to get approval from their certifier for a specific scope extension before buying the product. In addition, there are very complicated requirements for companies and certifiers to follow in order to verify the eligibility of UMAF.

This complexity makes it very difficult for companies and certifiers to comply with UMAF requirements, and leads to many cases where companies weren’t correctly informed about the potential to handle UMAF or what they needed to do. This challenge is particularly relevant in regions such as Russia and China, where many companies may be eligible to have UAMF in scope, but requirements need to be translated into different languages and communicated through many different certifiers or contract auditors.

As a result of these factors, UMAF requirements have led to an increasing number of problems in recent years. Some companies have not been informed by the MSC or certifiers about the option to buy ‘UMAF’ products, which can lead to a financial disadvantage.  In some cases, certifiers request variations on behalf of clients who weren’t informed of UMAF requirements, or aren’t technically eligible to handle UAMF product, and these variations negatively impact the consistency and credibility of the CoC program.

Further, UMAF is only relevant for a small percentage of MSC-fisheries (estimated about 3-4 new fisheries per year), and the financial benefits have not been clearly quantified – although more research here is needed.  With a new ‘speed and cost review’ completed in 2013 to improve the efficiency of fishery assessments, the UMAF concept itself may be less relevant now than it was previously.