Certifying community fisheries

Demonstrating tangible benefits is the key to creating conservation achievements.
Experience to date suggests that MSC certification yields real conservation benefits, better returns for fishers, and helps safeguard the future of the resources fishers rely on.

There are a number of considerations that communities interested in MSC certification should think about. These are explained below, accompanied with real-world examples from community fisheries working with WWF.

Step 1 - Selecting a site and community to work with

Seri fishermen bringing their catch ashore. / ©: WWF-Canon
Seri fishermen bringing their catch ashore.
© WWF-Canon
Contrary to what one might think, the physical location of a fishery is not necessarily the most important component in site selection. Community involvement is critical to MSC certification because it allows the various stakeholders to work together to find solutions and create a force for change. Read a field
example from the Gulf of California, Mexico.

Step 2 - Analyzing the options: pre-assessment

A traditional regatta hosted by the community of Prianha do Canto Verde. / ©: WWF-Canon
A traditional regatta hosted by the community of Prianha do Canto Verde.
© WWF-Canon
The confidential pre-assessment is meant as a first step to highlight any changes in fishing and management practices necessary to meet the MSC criteria. An open and transparent analysis of the fishery with maximum involvement of the community helps the fishery decide if they want to proceed with MSC certification. This part of the certification process often results in important conservation benefits even if the fishery does not proceed with full assessment. Read a field example from Prainha do Canto Verde, Brazil.

Step 3 - Full assessment

MSC certified fishermen with California spiny lobsters at Baja California, Gulf of California, ... / ©: WWF-Canon / Gustavo YBARRA
MSC certified fishermen with California spiny lobsters at Baja California, Gulf of California, Mexico.
© WWF-Canon / Gustavo YBARRA
If the fishery decides to move forward with full assessment, the certifying team measures the fishery against the MSC Principles and Criteria. If certification is awarded, the fishery has the right to use the MSC eco-label. Certification is often awarded with conditions that the fishery must meet in order to maintain their certification, locking in concrete conservation commitments. Read a field example from Baja California, Mexico.

Step 4 - Closing the circle

MSC certified fisherman with California spiny lobster at Baja California, Gulf of California, ... / ©: WWF-Canon / Gustavo YBARRA
MSC certified fisherman with California spiny lobster at Baja California, Gulf of California, Mexico.
© WWF-Canon / Gustavo YBARRA
Well-managed fisheries provide long-term security for fishers and the marine environment. In securing the future health of a fishery, the MSC certification process also directly benefits fishermen and fishing communities. The process helps communities improve the management of their fishery and offers an opportunity to be recognized for it.

MSC certification can also provide an entry into new markets with the potential to increase returns. Where interested fisheries are not yet able to meet the MSC standards, they are using the MSC evaluation to push for better data collection, new laws, and stronger enforcement measures. Read a field example from Baja California, Mexico.

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