Frequently Asked Questions

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Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP) is committed to supporting the seafood industry in eliminating human rights abuses and has developed a simple risk assessment tool that can be used down to the fishery level. Risk levels are generated using publicly available information filtered through an algorithm we developed. The levels are defined as:

  • High risk – a company sourcing from this fishery must take action to establish the actual situation regarding human rights
  • Medium risk - a company sourcing from this fishery should consider taking action to establish the actual situation regarding human rights depending on the company’s procurement policies
  • Low risk – a company sourcing from this fishery could consider it to be a lower priority when evaluating human rights issues in their seafood supply chain.

Please note that these are high-level indicators. As with all risk indicators, “low risk” does not mean “no risk.” Also, “high risk” does not mean that human rights abuses have been discovered or confirmed – only that the circumstances of the fishery suggest that the risks of abuse happening are high."

Fisheries certified or recertified by MSC have been categorized by SFP according to their progress on the conditions set by MSC at certification:

Platinum All Principles scored at or above 90.

Gold No conditions have been set at the time of the certification or all conditions have been met and closed during the surveillance audits.

Silver Either the fishery is newly certified (within the past year) or progress on conditions has been made according to the required time-line.

Bronze Conditions have not been met as scheduled by MSC.

General sources of the information on FishSource include:

  1. Stock assessment reports from organizations that officially assess stocks, such as ICES (European fisheries),NMFS (US fisheries), DFO (Canadian fisheries), New Zealand Ministry of Primary Industries, South American Institutes of Marine Research, and others;
  2. Scientific publications on fish and fisheries dynamics, fish population biology, and environmental aspects of fishing;
  3. Sustainability analyses, ratings, and references from Environmental NGOs/aquaria, including publicly available Marine Stewardship Council assessment reports;
  4. Official online databases on fisheries statistics and legislation (e.g., European Commission fisheries legislation; Scientific, Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries – STECF).

FishSource is directed at seafood businesses in order to help them source sustainable product and encourage improvements towards more sustainable practices in the fisheries they source from.

The gear types classification used by FishSource is based on the International Standard Statistical Classification of Fishing Gear (ISSCFG) adopted by FAO. Click here to download the proposed revised list of gear types from FAO or here to access the older, more complete document with descriptions of the major gears.

Where it has been found necessary to further break down a gear type, we have expanded categories within FAO’s classification. These can be identified in fishery profile names as their abbreviated forms are followed by a suffix (e.g. MIS_rk for rake/hand gathered). The full list of gear types used on FishSource and their respective descriptions can be consulted here.

FishSource is a publicly available online resource on the sustainability status of fisheries and fish stocks. FishSource consolidates and summarizes the main scientific and technical information needed by seafood buyers to gauge the sustainability of the fisheries they are sourcing from and take actions to help improve them.

The main sources of  funding for FishSource are private foundations. See more here under Donors & Supporters.

FishSource content development is also supported by SFP's corporate partners. In 2010, SFP Foundation was granted nonprofit status in the US under Internal Revenue Service Section 501(c)(3).

Not certified
Fisheries that complete assessment but fail certification. Fisheries that did not achieve certification can re-enter assessment within 2 years.

Pre-assessment started
This is an initial evaluation to determine if the fishery should advance to a full assessment in the short term. A confidential pre-assessment report is provided to the client body to identify any potential problems with the fishery and provide guidance on addressing these issues before progressing to full assessment.

MSC Full Assessment
The fishery is in the process of being assessed by independent certifiers to demonstrate that it is sustainable by meeting the MSC environmental standard for sustainable fishing, with the aim of receiving certification.

MSC Certified
The fishery has passed the assessment and been certified. Usually, the certification is attributed for 5 years. However, certified fisheries are subject to annual surveillance.

MSC Recertified
After the certification period, the fishery re-enters assessment and, if it passes, the fishery is labeled “Recertified.”

Withdrawn
Fisheries may voluntarily leave the MSC program at any stage. On the other hand, if a fishery has not progressed as scheduled through the process, it may be required to withdraw from certification.

Suspended
When an annual surveillance finds conditions are not being met, a suspension of the certification may be announced. The fishery then has up to 90 days to work with the certification body to put in place a plan to introduce corrective measures. If the certification body approves the action plan, the fishery will remain suspended while the corrective measures are being implemented. Failure to put a suitable plan in place will result in the fishery having its certificate withdrawn at the end of the 90 days.

No. FishSource provides both qualitative and quantitative information about specific variables which are key across international standards of fisheries’ sustainability such as biomass and fishing mortality levels, impact of fishing upon habitat or bycatch, but does not define a level above which a fishery is “sustainable.” FishSource leaves it to the users of the FishSource data to do that themselves, according to whichever standard of definition of sustainability they are using. FishSource is like a thermometer – it reports a reading, but it’s up to the user to determine whether its “too hot, too cold, or just right”.

FishSource is committed to providing the highest possible quality data on fisheries. Our controls include:

  1. Full referencing of all sources of information, so users can verify data. All dates for source information are provided so users can verify whether data and information is up to date (and see FAQ “Why are some FishSource profiles described as ‘may be out of date,’ and how often are the profiles updated?”).
  2. An open, online review and comment feature on FishSource.
  3. Public author’s guide, which provides guidelines to contributors, including the scientific standards on which their contribution should rely.
  4. Internal review by SFP staff.

FishSource compiles and simplifies information on the sustainability of fisheries that businesses may be sourcing from, providing them with actionable information to empower them to push for and recognize improvements in those fisheries. By doing this FishSource supports seafood businesses committed to addressing the sustainability of their sourcing options.

We welcome feedback on all FishSource profiles and hope to encourage an open and constructive debate on any of our content. If you believe additional sources should be considered within the profile or we are reporting inaccurate information from an existing source, please let us know. To comment, click on the blue “Add comment” tab on the right-hand side of each profile or scroll down to the “Comments” section.You do not have to be a FishSource registered user and can log in through a choice of platforms. Please provide publicly available sources to support your comments.

We welcome feedback on all FishSource profiles. To comment, click on the blue “Add comment” tab on the right-hand side of each profile or scroll down to the “Comments” section. Please provide publicly available sources to support your comments.  

It means the profile has recently been updated. We welcome all public feedback on the updated content - just click on the blue  "Add comment" tab on the FishSource profile or scroll down to the “Comments” section. Please provide publicly available sources to support your comments.

We continue to welcome feedback even after the review period is over.

If you need more information, please email contact@fishsource.org and reference the name of the profile.

It means content has recently been developed on the fishery and is in "draft" form. We welcome all public feedback on the developed content - just click on the blue "Add comment" tab on the FishSource profile or scroll down to the “Comments” section. Please provide publicly available sources to support your comments.

We continue to welcome feedback even after the review period is over.

If you need more information, please email contact@fishsource.org and reference the name of the profile.

FishSource strives to be the most comprehensive and up-to-date database of fishery status information and has gained global recognition as a trusted resource. However, there are challenges in achieving and maintaining this goal. Our internal team of scientists and researchers is relatively small. This team maintains a large number of updated profiles on FishSource for fisheries that are of most importance to our donors, corporate partners, and staff. Many other profiles may be incomplete or out of date, and other fisheries may not yet be profiled on FishSource. SFP’s External Contributor Program provides a solution for third parties to use the FishSource platform, methodology, and process to generate public evaluations of fisheries that would otherwise not be conducted  

It means the profile is in a prioritization queue for further development, either being researched and developed by the FishSource team or awaiting their availability to do so... If you need more information, please consult the information on the External Contributor Program or email contact@fishsource.org and reference the name of the profile.

Because the official public statistics they rely upon may have different official publication dates. Additionally, estimates of different variables from stock assessments often are produced with different time lags (see also the FAQ "Why are some FishSource profiles described as ‘maybe out of date,’ and how often are the profiles updated?").

FishSource strives to use the best available science and, whenever possible, structures its information around biological stocks, as this is the level at which status is most reliably assessed and management measures are most effective. FishSource then captures a further level of information, including the fisheries operating on that stock and their impacts on its sustainability and the sustainability of the surrounding ecosystem. Profiles are structured to allow users two different perspectives. One is to view general content on a particular resource and on the multiple fisheries which may operate on it; the other is to focus on a specific fishery and to approach the effects on the resource from this perspective.

Besides providing a choice of perspective, FishSource also allows users access to information at the depth they require. Scientific and technical numerical data and narrative content are available on the main aspects of sustainability, and this information is further summarized into FishSource scores – simple indicators of stock status, management effectiveness, and fishers’ compliance, reflecting internationally accepted standards of these metrics.

FishSource scores provide users with simplified indicators of how fisheries are performing according to globally accepted measures of sustainability. Scores 1 to 3 reflect the quality of the management and scores 4 and 5 communicate the state of the resource. Scores on environmental impacts of the fishery are under development and will be rolled out soon. The scores are each calculated on a scale from zero to ten with information obtained from stock assessment reports and from management measures adopted in the fishery. By identifying strengths and challenges in the fishery, they can help to prioritize and implement improvements needed in the fishery.

Cut-off points of “6” and “8” on the scores’ scale intend to map to scores of “60” and “80” in the more detailed and nuanced MSC standard, reflecting “acceptable standard but with improvements required” and “unconditional pass,” respectively.

To learn more about how scores were derived or how they relate to the MSC system you may download a pdf document here.

Yes. You can “follow” a stock or a fishery if you are registered and logged in to the FishSource website. Just visit the profile you are interested in and view it either from the stock/assessment unit/resource or fishery perspective and click on “Follow this stock” or “Follow this fishery” or on the green plus sign on the top bar of the profile.

When visiting “My account”, you can edit your options, including the frequency of the alerts you receive.

FishSource profiles are named as:

Common name of taxon – name of resource

The lowest taxonomic level possible is used, preferably a species. When species are not differentiated in catches or assessments, structuring a profile at a higher taxon, such as genus or family, may be inevitable. Wherever possible, the common name in English from FAO’s ASFIS list is used. Occasionally, where more recent taxonomic knowledge supersedes the latest version of ASFIS, or where no common name is defined, other names may be used instead.

Whenever the biological stock structure is known, this will be chosen as the resource. When the stock is unknown but an assessment is available, this assessment unit is considered as the resource. When the stock structure is unknown and no assessment is performed, the resource is structured at the management level.

SFP prioritizes updating profiles that are in active use by SFP’s current retail, restaurant, or supplier partners, or that are part of fishery improvement projects (FIPs) or supplier roundtables (SRs) that are important to SFP’s strategy. These are updated as soon as possible after new information is released. The official release of stock assessment updates or of any management measures concerning the stock or fishery triggers the profile’s updating process: an internal FishSource annual calendar anticipates all major updates required and the date (e.g., stock assessments for NE Atlantic fisheries are released late May/early June by ICES), which acts as a basis for FishSource staff allocation. The FishSource and SFP staff also try to be aware of the release of any unanticipated actions/outcomes concerning management, advice, or environmental matters that might justify an update of the corresponding FishSource profiles. However, in some cases, some sections of priority profiles may rely on information more than 18 months old, increasing the chances that the information may be out of date.

SFP does not systematically update profiles that are not in active use by current SFP partners, so many of these profiles may be out of date. SFP publicly notes throughout FishSource profiles the date of last update of each section and the publication dates of the documents and data used as sources for the material in the profiles. The dates of sources are available both in the in-text citations and in the Sources section of the profile. SFP advises stakeholders and users to carefully check the publication date of the sources for the information they are interested in. If the information sources appear out of date, SFP advises users to contact their suppliers and ask them to request the relevant authorities make all relevant information public, or contract an update themselves through the External Contributor Program. SFP notes that any stakeholder or user concerned that information may be out of date or incomplete can use the commenting feature to include comments publicly in the relevant profile, and to help ensure the information presented is up to date.

The Sustainable Fisheries Partnership’s (SFP’s) mission is to maintain healthy ocean and aquatic ecosystems, enhance fishing and fish-farming livelihoods, and secure food supplies. We believe companies interested in responsible sourcing and long-term seafood supplies can be powerful allies in leveraging fisheries improvement. Therefore, we are committed to developing fishery improvement projects (FIPs) – where an alliance of buyers, suppliers, and producers work together to improve a fishery by influencing  policies and management while voluntarily changing purchasing and fishing practices to reduce problems such as illegal fishing, bycatch, and habitat impacts.

In order to show whether FIP improvement efforts are producing actual results, SFP has developed a “FIP Improvement Tracker,” which groups these common FIP tasks into a series of progressive steps or stages. For each stage, there are specific indicators.

Stage 1 FIP is launched: The fishery has been evaluated, improvement options are identified, and supply chain engaged, with this information publicly available.

Stage 2 FIP is formed: The stakeholders have met and formed either a formal partnership or informal alliance, and developed a workplan for improvements on which they all agree.

Stage 3 Encouraging improvements: The workplan is made public. FIP members are pressing regulators for improvements and adopting better product specifications and procurement policies.

Stage 4 Delivering improvements in policies and/or fishing practices: There have been improvements in government policy or fishery management, better compliance with the existing management plan, or improvements in fishing practices.

Stage 5 Delivering improvements in the water: There have been positive trends in key scientific indicators (biomass, fishing mortality, bycatch, and unacceptable habitat impacts).

Stage 6 Fishery is MSC certified (OPTIONAL): Achieving MSC certification is desirable but not absolutely a requirement for a FIP. There are, of course, definite benefits of MSC certification, such as having an independent third party verify the results of a FIP.

The FIP progress ratings method is a tool to provide a quick reference metric of improvement progress in a fishery, mainly by tracking the frequency of improvements in fishery policies/practices and actual improvements “in the water.”  While it helps give FIP stakeholders and other interested parties a good sense of progress, it is not intended as a final determination of the progress of a FIP. For many users of this tool, due diligence is still required to understand details such as what type of improvements are (or are not) being made and possibly what activities have happened, have not happened, and are planned.

For more information on the background and details of the FIP progress ratings methodology, click here. Ratings for all public FIPs that SFP is aware of will be maintained and displayed in the FIPs section of FishSource profiles linked to fishery improvement projects.

Click here to download an informational note regarding FishSource scoring of Pacific salmon fisheries.

Click here to download a copy of the FishSource salmon assessment method.

Click here to download a report explaining how the Pacific salmon fishery assessment method was developed using a statistical analysis of MSC scoring.

Click here to download the dataset used in the statistical analysis of MSC scoring.

The profiles currently available are in draft format as we are still refining the data content and presentation.If you have any comments please contact our Aquaculture Analyst. If your comments are specific to content within a specific profile, please provide publicly available sources to support your comments.

FishSource Aquaculture profiles serve as a tool developed by SFP to present straightforward, clear information on the current status of zonal management in aquaculture for various farmed seafood sources. Presently data is not widely collected on a zonal basis, so this initial set of profiles was developed to present the issues and encourage the gathering of data that will indicate progress in zonal management. The profiles are intended to help inform the conversation about zonal management and encourage wider adoption of zonal management approaches.

The five FishSource Aquaculture scores do not constitute a measure of environmental impact or sustainability, but rather an assessment of key management aspects of an aquaculture industry, and were derived following the zonal approach to aquaculture management. The scores, each with its underlying question, are as follows:
• Score 1 – Zonal regulatory framework: Is there a published national aquaculture sector management plan that specifically includes a zonal (area-based) management system?
• Score 2 – Industry adherence to Code of Good Practice: Has the industry [or the government on its behalf] published its own Code of Good Practice that includes zonal management and is there an active producer organization?
• Score 3 – Pollution impact management: Are there published carrying capacity-based licensing procedure and water quality criteria for different types of public water body within the zone?
• Score 4 – Disease management: Is there a published, zonally agreed, coordinated approach to disease management under normal operation or emergency situations?
• Score 5 – Feed management: Do all sources of feed supplied to local producers contain known ingredients coming from fisheries with no critical sustainability problems (wild fisheries profiled on FishSource.com scoring no less than 6 in any of the criteria)?

To learn more about the risk rating standard and the scores you may download an explanatory document here.

Zonal management is an approach to aquaculture management that recognizes the interconnectedness of farms and aims to ensure industry growth is based on scientific evidence of carrying capacities and disease risks. The zonal management framework ensures that appropriate planning, husbandry practices, and regulation and enforcement are in place; all of which underpin the systems needed to support an environmentally and economically sustainable industry. You can learn more about zonal management and SFPs approach here.

Still have questions? Email us at contact@fishsource.org or fill out the form below