Our Certification Division conducts all our accredited third party certification activities. We are accredited to assess conformance with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Responsible Fisheries Management (RFM) and Fairness Integrity Safety Health (FISH) standards. We also undertake Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs), and other activities that assist fisheries on their path towards full certification.
The work in this Division is kept separate from our other sustainable seafood initiatives and consultancy projects. MRAG Americas is an independently accredited Conformity Assessment Body for MSC, RFM and FISH assessments and we have established rigorous conflict of interest management policies and procedures that ensure complete independence and impartiality of all our assessments.
Contact us about MSC, ASC (CoC), RFM or FISH certification for your company
Worldwide Experience: MRAG Americas’ Fishery Clients
Fishery Standards (MSC and RFM)
Download the MSC Fisheries Certification Application Package
Fisheries must contract with an accredited independent MSC Conformity Assessment Body (CAB), such as MRAG Americas in order to be assessed and, if successful, become MSC certified.
Certification demonstrates that a fishery meets the MSC Standard for a fishery that is well managed and sustainably harvested. The MSC authorizes the use of its logo as a label on products from certified fisheries 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:
Fisheries must contract with an accredited independent certifying company, such as MRAG Americas, in order to be assessed and, if successful, become RFM certified.
Certification demonstrates that a fishery meets the RFM Standard for a fishery that is well managed and sustainably harvested. The RFM authorizes the use of its logo as a label on products from certified fisheries 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 RFM label has not contributed to overfishing or environmental destruction.
The fisheries listed here are undergoing MSC assessment or are certified and under surveillance audits by MRAG Americas, Inc. Information on each fishery can be found by following the links to their MSC websites in “Our MSC In-Assessment and Certified Clients” below.
Stakeholder engagement opportunities: We invite stakeholder participation for the MSC fishery assessments. The MSC has developed a guide for stakeholder input.
Our MSC In-Assessment and Certified Clients
East Kamchatka Salmon Fishery
Kamchatka River Salmon Fishery
Kolkhoz im. Bekereva-Ukinskij Liman & Belorechensk-Vyvenskoe Karaginsky Bay salmon fisheries
Irikla Reservoir Perch Fishery
Narody Severa Bolsheretsk Salmon Fishery
Olyutorskiy Bay Salmon Fishery
Ozernovsky RKZ No 55 West Kamchatka Salmon Fishery
Tymlat Karaginsky Bay Salmon Fishery
VA-Delta Kamchatka Salmon Fishery
Vityaz-Avto Danish Seine Walleye Pollock Fishery
Vostcohny Bereg-Maksimovsky, Koryakmoreprodukt-Nachikinskoe & Severo-Vostochnaya Company Karaginsky Bay Salmon Fisheries
Zarya-Kolpakovsky Sobolevo Salmon Fisheries
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
DFPO Inner Mussel, Cockle and Oyster Fishery
Schleswig-Holstein Blue Shell Mussel Fishery
AAFA and WFOA North Pacific Albacore Tuna Fishery
AAFA and WFOA South Pacific Albacore Tuna Fishery
Alaska Salmon Fishery
BSAI and GOA Alaska Flatfish fishery
BSAI and GOA Alaska Pollock fishery
BSAI and GOA Pacific Cod fishery
Canada Pacific Halibut (British Columbia) Fishery
Gulf of Maine lobster
Manitoba Boreal Forest Lakes Walleye, Northern Pike, Yellow Perch, Lake Whitefish, and Lake Cisco Commercial Gillnet Fishery
Oregon and Washington Pink Shrimp Fishery
Pacific Hake Mid-Water Trawl Fishery
Prestige Oysters Texas and Louisiana Private Oyster Fishery
Southern New England winter and little skate
US Acadian Redfish, Haddock and Pollock Otter Trawl Fishery
US Atlantic Sea Scallop
US Atlantic Spiny Dogfish and Winter Skate Fishery
US North Atlantic Swordfish Fishery
West Coast Groundfish Limited Entry Trawl Fishery
AAFA and WFOA South Pacific Albacore Tuna Fishery
Abrolhos Island and Mid-West Scallop Trawl Fishery
Australia Northern Prawn Fishery
Australia Orange Roughy – Eastern Zone Trawl
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
Our RFM In-Assessment and Certified Clients
Chain of Custody (CoC) Standards
As an accredited Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) conformity assessment body (CAB), MRAG Americas has evaluated hundreds of COC clients, leading to certifications of companies ranging from small, single-employee brokers to national retailers and restaurant chains with hundreds or even thousands of sites such as Amazon, McDonald’s US, McDonald’s Canada and Loblaw. Additional clients include Holland America Line, Dartmouth College, Sushi Maki, Bamboo Sushi, Bumble Bee Foods, and Starkist. There has been an increase in both pet food companies and vitamin and supplement producers seeking CoC certification indicating new demand in those supply chains.
Our roster of auditors allows us to accommodate both national and international work on short notice. Senior team oversight, regular witness audits and re-training ensure that we maintain a high level of quality and consistency across projects. Our unique position as a science-based consultancy, with deep knowledge of fisheries management, policy and seafood supply chains, allows us to provide clients with balanced reports and insights that are highly respected by governments, NGOs and major seafood buyers. Additionally, our experience with a wide variety of CoC clients gives us intimate knowledge of traceability and the data-entry process, including requirements and challenges, at all steps of the supply chain.
There are five steps in the MSC/ASC CoC assessment process: application, pre-assessment review, assessment, certification, and surveillance. MRAG Americas endeavors to help new clients achieve certification within a four-to-six-week time frame. During the application and pre-assessment review phases, we work directly with clients to help them select the correct standard and review their documentation to assess audit readiness.
Once a client is ready for audit, an auditor is assigned with care given to select a local auditor wherever possible and minimize travel costs and logistics. Prior to their audit clients will be sent an audit plan and scoping documents to review, and the audit will be scheduled directly between the auditor and client, to ensure that the dates and times selected work for all parties. After the audit concludes, MRAG Americas reviews all audits and issues a certification decision. The MSC requires this to be done within 30 days; MRAG usually finishes this step much faster, especially for new clients awaiting their initial certification. Ongoing surveillance is discussed with the client during the closing meeting; most clients require annual surveillance audits to maintain their certification.
The RFM assessment process is very similar to the MSC/ASC CoC assessment process. There are the same five steps: application, pre-assessment review, assessment, certification, and surveillance, and the same time frame. The RFM Certification Process can proceed independently or can be combined with an MSC/ASC certification, thereby saving time and reducing the cost compared to doing the two assessments independently.
The FISH Standard provides a voluntary, independent and accredited third-party certification program for labor practices on vessels in wild-capture fisheries around the globe. The assessment process includes a document/information gathering stage, an on-site ‘office audit’, vessel inspections, crew interviews and a final report. See www.fishstandard.com
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.
Why Choose MRAG Americas
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.
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
Links to Assessment Reports
Vice President: Science
For complaints to MRAG Americas pertaining to MSC certifications please email MRAG.MSCcomplaints@mragamericas.com and view our: complaint procedure.
MRAG Americas is fully accredited by ASI to perform fishery and chain of custody certifications.