The Fisheries Certification Division at MRAG Americas is responsible for Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) fisheries assessments, Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs), and other projects related to fisheries certification and ratings.
MRAG Americas conducts both consultancy projects and auditing work on fisheries. It is essential that we maintain clear separation of these activities and ensure that we do not undertake any consulting work that might impact the independence of our auditing activities. MRAG Americas is an accredited Conformity Assessment Body for MSC assessments and we have established rigorous conflict of interest management policies and procedures to ensure complete independence and impartiality of our MSC fishery and chain of custody assessments.
Fishery Certification Division Projects
There are some fisheries who are not ready to enter the MSC full assessment process to achieve certification. These fisheries can instead begin a FIP which consists of a roadmap of improvements necessary to achieve certification and corresponding actions the fishery can take to fulfill these requirements. MRAG Americas has the expertise and capacity to design and facilitate FIPs using tools designed in-house, as well as those made available by the MSC.
MRAG Americas also sits on the technical oversight committee for fisheryprogress.org – an independently administered website that tracks the progress of FIPs and provides consolidated and comprehensive information to those looking to source products from fisheries actively working toward sustainability.
Because MRAG Americas is highly experienced in seafood certification and ratings frameworks, we are able to work with organizations who are looking to develop their own seafood sourcing guidelines or to provide evaluations and advice related to the gamut of certification and ratings systems available to fisheries and buyers around the world.
Marine Stewardship Council fishery assessments
Fisheries must contract with an accredited independent certifying company, such as MRAG Americas, Inc. in order to be assessed and, if successful, MSC certified.
Certification of a fishery under the MSC Fisheries Standard demonstrates that the fish product comes from a fishery that is well managed and sustainably harvested. The MSC authorizes the use of its logo as a label on certified products to reward environmentally responsible fishery management and practices. Consumers concerned with overfishing and environmental and social consequences will increasingly be able to choose seafood products based on sustainability of the fishery resource. Consumers can have confidence that the product labeled with the MSC ecolabel has not contributed to overfishing or environmental destruction.
Learn about the MSC program:
The MSC Fisheries Standard (and the corresponding scoring guideposts) comprises the requirements against which client fisheries are rated. To receive certification, a client fishery must meet or exceed the minimum standards for each Principle.
Learn about the MSC’s three core principles that every fishery must meet:
Principle 1: Sustainable Fish Stocks
Principle 2: Minimising Environmental Impact
Principle 3: Management Effectiveness
The certification process involves several steps to assess compliance with the MSC’s Fisheries Standard. The assessment process consists of a preliminary desk study (the pre-assessment) to review all existing data on the fishery and identify any barriers to a full assessment. The subsequent full assessment provides a formal and public evaluation of the fishery against the Fisheries Standard, and, if the fishery is successful, concludes with the issuance of a certificate.
A succinct overview of this process can be found on the MSC website.
The Sustainable Seas video also gives a comprehensive overview of this process:
The fisheries listed here are undergoing MSC assessment or certified and under surveillance audits by MRAG Americas, Inc. Information on each fishery can be found by following the links to the MSC website.
Stakeholder engagement opportunities: We invite stakeholder participation for the MSC fishery assessments. The MSC has developed a guide for stakeholder input.
AAFA and WFOA North Pacific Albacore Tuna Fishery
AAFA and WFOA South Pacific Albacore Tuna Fishery
Alaska Flatfish Fishery – Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands
Alaska Flatfish Fishery – Gulf of Alaska
Alaska Pacific Cod Fishery – Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands
Alaska Pacific Cod Fishery – Gulf of Alaska
Alaska Pollock Fishery – Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands
Alaska Pollock Fishery – Gulf of Alaska
Canada Pacific Halibut (British Columbia) Fishery
Oregon and Washington Pink Shrimp Fishery
Pacific Hake Mid-Water Trawl Fishery
Prestige Oyster Texas and Louisiana Private Oyster Fishery
PSPA Alaska Salmon Fishery
US Atlantic Monkfish and Winter Skate – Scope Extension to the U.S. Atlantic Spiny Dogfish fishery
US North Atlantic Swordfish Fishery
Manitoba Boreal Forest Lakes Walleye, Northern Pike, Yellow Perch, Lake Whitefish, and Lake Cisco Commercial Gillnet Fishery
West Coast Groundfish Limited Entry Trawl Fishery
DFPO Denmark North Sea, Skagerrak, and Kattegat Hake and Plaice Fishery
DFPO Inner Danish Waters Blue Shell Mussel Fishery
DFPO Limfjord Mussel and Cockle Fishery
DFPO and DPPO North Sea, Skagerrak, and Kattegat Sandeel, Sprat, and Norway Pout Fishery
DFPO, DPPO and SPFPO Skagerrak, Kattegat, and Western Baltic Herring Fishery
Schleswig-Holstein Blue Shell Mussel Fishery
East Kamchatka Salmon Fishery
Kamchatka River Salmon Fishery
Irikla Reservoir Perch Fishery
Narody Severa Bolsheretsk Salmon Fishery
Olyutorskiy Bay Salmon Fishery
Tymlat Karaginsky Bay Salmon Fishery
VA-Delta Kamchatka Salmon Fishery
AAFA and WFOA South Pacific Albacore Tuna Fishery
Australia Northern Prawn Fishery
Australia Silver-lipped Pearl Oyster
Exmouth Gulf Prawn Fishery
New Zealand Orange Roughy Fishery
Shark Bay Prawn Fishery
South Australia Sardines Fishery
South East Australia Small Pelagic Fishery Commonwealth Mid-water Trawl
Spencer Gulf King Prawn Fishery
Certifying Fisheries and Chain of Custody for a Sustainable Future
MRAG Americas Qualifications
MRAG is uniquely qualified for conducting fishery assessments against the MSC standards. Rather than a certification company that must add fishery expertise, MRAG is a full service natural resources consulting company that does fishery certifications. Our staff of scientists and specialists has expertise in stock assessment, ecosystem-based management, and fishery management. We can draw from our own staff to provide members of assessment teams or bring in specialists from our wide network of top-level scientists. Our scientists have participated in numerous MSC certifications, have provided analyses of fisheries in support of the MSC process, and have conducted strategic analyses for the MSC.
MRAG Americas Policies
It is the policy of MRAG Americas to ensure that its operations are consistent with defined standards, criteria, and procedures to maintain the highest appropriate levels of quality. To this end, MRAG Americas operates in accordance with a Quality Management Plan (QMP) that defines such standards, and provides the basis for quality improvement. The Quality Management System described in the Plan applies to all areas of fishery and chain of custody certifications performed under the MSC process, and includes consideration of the needs and expectations of the our customers and stakeholders.
Quality Control (QC), Quality Assurance (QA), and Quality Improvement activities related to the collection, analysis, storage and use of fisheries and chain of custody data are prescribed in the Department’s Quality Management Plan (QMP. These activities, responsive to the criteria in the ANSI/ASQC – E4 and ISO 14001: 2002 standards, are necessary to ensure that certifications made by MRAG Americas are based on data management methods and practices that meet or exceed relevant quality standards.
Specifically, it is the policy of MRAG Americas to ensure that:
- Management provides the resources necessary to develop, implement, maintain, and improve the QMP; and regularly reviews the performance of the QMP for effectiveness in supporting the stated mission of MSC certifications;
- MSC certifications meet documented standards for accuracy, precision, representation, comparability, and suitability to their intended purposes;
- MSC certifications are verifiable and defensible, and all components related to their generation are properly documented;
- Data integrity is maintained and documented, including chain-of-custody and archival control;
- Quality audits of QMP elements are carried out on a scheduled and documented basis, as are any required corrective actions;
- Managers, supervisors, and staff throughout MRAG Americas, and its contractors, understand their roles in managing quality; receive the training necessary to meet quality standards for job tasks; and are encouraged to identify and suggest improvements to be made to the QMP.
MSC Client Testimonials
Pacific Seafood Group has worked with MRAG on a regular basis over the last 3 years. Each engagement with MRAG has been handled with a high degree of Professionalism – good communication, good organization, good working knowledge of situations and commitment to time frames, have all lead to good outcomes in our engagements MRAG.
- Charles Kirschbaum, Pacific Seafood Group, client for WA pink shrimp
The At-sea Processors Association (APA) is the client for the Alaska pollock MSC certifications. We were one of the first organizations globally to pursue MSC certification, giving us more than 15 years of experience working in the fishery certification realm. MRAG’s reputation as a credible, expert authority and its experience working with other independent experts were critical factors in leading us to work with them on maintenance of our MSC certifications. As the certification body for the Alaska pollock fisheries, MRAG distinguishes itself in its fair treatment of stakeholders and in the high quality of its analyses and reports. MRAG offers a great value in the competitive fishery certification market when considering the bottom-line cost of certification, and that value is enhanced immeasurably by the quality of fishery assessments that are above reproach.
- Jim Gilmore, At-sea Processors Association, client for Alaska Pollock
As a client for 3 MSC certified fisheries and having been involved in numerous audits and re-certifications over the past decade, I’m very happy with my relationship with MRAG Americas. Their staff are a pleasure to work with, always well prepared and consistently produce quality reports.
- Brad Pettinger, Oregon Trawl Commission, client for OR pink shrimp and Pacific hake
“MRAG America’s auditors are professional, experienced and efficient, which provided this fishery with the confidence and assurance a robust and defensible analysis of the fishery against the MSC criteria was delivered. Richard Banks is a great team leader, who cuts through the information, to lead his team to a thorough result.”
- Simon Clark, Spencer Gulf and West Coast Prawn Trawlers Association, client for Spencer Gulf King Prawn
Name of Fishery:
Pacific Halibut Management Association
In 2017 the fishery began the re-certification process against the Marine Stewardship Council Fisheries Standard v1.3. Additionally, the fishery completed its third surveillance in 2018 confirming they continue to meet the MSC’s standard. A fourth surveillance audit will commence in 2019.
Relevant catch data information through 2017 has been provided by DFO and the client and made available to ensure it is accessible by all stakeholders: BC Groundfish Catch Data.
To register as a stakeholder or to obtain more information on any of these assessments or other MSC fisheries work, please contact Amanda Stern-Pirlot.
Director Fisheries Certification Division
MRAG Americas – Seattle
1631 15th Avenue W, Suite 215
Seattle, WA 98119
For complaints to MRAG Americas pertaining to MSC certifications please email MRAG.MSCcomplaints@mragamericas.com and view: complaint procedure.
MRAG Americas is fully accredited by ASI to perform fishery and chain of custody certifications.
Our ability to service an extensive array of resource management needs is further extended through our network of collaborations with internationally acclaimed experts from academic institutions and other private organizations worldwide.