A Seal of Trust: Your Ultimate Guide to Fishery Certification

Over the past few years, the world has seen an alarming rate of depletion of marine resources. Consequently, there’s a constant increase in demand for farmed fish; a situation that has greatly influenced the growth of the industry. Fishery certification is the most common method trusted globally to help fishers/farmers and consumers to embrace responsible and sustainable ways of using fishery resources. But what exactly is fishery certification involve and how can you acquire the certification? Well, please read on to learn more.

The Basics

The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is a non-profit organization formed in 1997. The main aim of its certification (given to fisheries) is to promote responsible fisheries by focusing on decreasing losses in seafood resources and improving conservation of oceans across the globe.

The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) was formed in the year 2010 by the Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative and the World Wildlife Fund for Nature. The purpose of its certification (given to farms) is to promote responsible aquaculture through enhancing the sustainability of aquacultural products both socially and environmentally. Unlike MSC certification, ASC certification involves strict sustainability standards that have to be met prior to being ASC-certified.

The Chain of Custody (COC) certification, on the other hand, is given to trading companies and processors handling MSC/ASC certified products as a way of preventing the contamination of non-certified marine products during the processing and distribution stages.

How Can You Benefit from the Certification?

There are several advantages that you can enjoy from acquiring MSC/ASC and MSC/ASC COC certifications. 

MSC and ASC Certification Benefits 

  1. You’ll have the freedom of entering new markets even those located overseas.
  2. You’ll enhance the sustainability of marine resources through your efforts.
  3. The process can enhance your brand image and that of your catches.
  4. You’ll be in a better position to win third parties’ approval for enhancing sustainable fishery and aquaculture practices.

MSC COC and ASC COC Certification Benefits 

  1. You can present your seafood business as an eco-friendly company through the MSC ecolabel and ASC logo.
  2. You can access new markets and expand your potential clients through distinguishing your marine products from uncertified ones.
  3. You’ll be in a better position to manage possible raw material procurement risks.
  4. The certification can enhance the brand image for both your marine products and company in general since it’s trusted internationally.
  5. By acquiring the certification, you can benefit from the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative, which can allow you to incorporate social and environmental initiatives into your normal business operations; a situation where undertaking special initiatives will be unnecessary.

How Do You Get Certified? 

MSC Fishery Certification and ASC Aquaculture Certification

There are two steps that you’ll have to undergo to receive the MSC Fishery Certification and ASC Aquaculture Certification: pre-assessment and main assessment. In the pre-assessment stage, you’ll undergo an assessment and report which will be overseen by the certifying organization. This will involve going to the main assessment and checking for availability of the necessary requirements. The outcome of the pre-assessment stage will determine whether you’ll undergo the main assessment or not. If yes, you’ll have to undergo a strict assessment which will involve checking for several items in line with the requirements and the concept of public comment. If you pass both stages, you’ll be granted the respective certification – MSC or ASC.

MSC COC and ASC COC Certification

For you to be COC-certified, there are two main parts involved in the process: document inspection and on-site assessment stages. You’ll need to establish and complete a control system in line with the COC assessment standards. You’ll then have to wait for approximately three to four weeks to be certified. The stages will mainly focus on whether:

  • You have all the records of receiving, processing and shipping out. This is aimed at ensuring the MSC ecolabel and ASC logo are properly used.
  • You keep your certified and non-certified marine products separate from each other and can easily be distinguished.
  • There’s a traceable relationship between the products and their raw materials as indicated in the records.

And what about the COC certification fees? Well, this varies depending on different factors such as the type of certification applied for (individual or group) and the form of business entity among other factors. You can decide to arrange for an advance manual assessment before the on-site certification assessment, but you’ll have to pay for it.

MSC Ecolabel and ASC Logo

MSC ecolabel and ASC logo are issued to products taken from marine environments that are properly managed to effectively control the harvesting of marine resources. They help distinguish certified products and certification holders who have complied to international certification standards. Most consumers tend to trust marine products with MSC ecolabel and ASC logo. Basically, MSC ecolabel and ASC logo support fishers determined to protect different marine resources as much as possible.

What If There Are Nonconformities During the Assessment?

There’s no guarantee of automatic certification once you apply for the process. As stated earlier, there are requirements and standards that you must comply for you to acquire certification for your products. Therefore, in an event of any nonconformities during the main assessment, the auditors will highlight them for you and advise on the possible solutions. In most instances, they may ask you to make the corrections prior to the certification or they can approve the certification on condition that you’ll make the corrections within a certain period.

What’s Next After Certification?

Being awarded the certificate will not be the end. Your certifier will be following up (annually for MSC/ASC certification and for MSC/ASC COC, it depends on the risk assessment results) to ensure the set standards are maintained. They’ll also be checking to see if you follow the strict chain of custody according to the provided criteria. For instance, they’ll be checking if you’re following the right processing and handling procedures of all products and that these products can be traced to your farm on their labels. You’ll have five years and three years before renewing your MSC/ASC and MSC/ASC COC certificates respectively.


By now you’ve understood what fishery certification means and how your business can benefit from acquiring the certification. The guide also explains how you can acquire the certification and, perhaps how you can maintain it. You need to make an effort of acquiring the certifications to enjoy the associated benefits and help enhance sustainable management of seafood resources. You can also refer to other relevant eco blogs to learn more about fisheries certification and how you can benefit from them. All the best as you plan to acquire the certifications!


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