This glossary provides brief definitions and requirements for easy reference by users. For more details, please read the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions’ Guidelines for Supporting Fishery Improvement Projects and the Review Protocols.

FIP Types tracks the following types of FIPs:

  • Basic
    Basic FIPs are a good entry point for fisheries to begin addressing specific environmental challenges to improve their performance against the Marine Stewardship Council Fisheries Standard. Basic FIPs complete a needs assessment to understand the challenges in the fishery.
  • Comprehensive
    Comprehensive FIPs aim to address all of the fishery’s environmental challenges necessary to achieve a level of performance consistent with an unconditional pass of the Marine Stewardship Council Fisheries Standard. Comprehensive FIPs engage a party experienced with applying the MSC standard to complete an MSC pre-assessment to understand the challenges in the fishery and must have independent, in-person audits of progress against the MSC standard every three years.
  • Completed
    Completed FIPs have graduated to certification or otherwise achieved all of their objectives.
  • Prospective
    Prospective FIPs are currently in stage 0, 1, or 2, and intend to meet the requirements for basic or comprehensive FIPs and complete stage 2 within one year.
  • Inactive
    Inactive FIPs ended before achieving their goals or failed to meet the requirements for progress reporting (specifically, failing to submit reports for one year or failing to report at least one stage 4 or stage 5 outcome within three years).
FIP Stages recognizes six FIP stages:

  • Stage 0: FIP Identification
    Target fishery identified and supply chain analysis conducted.
  • Stage 1: FIP Development
    Assessment of the fishery’s environmental performance conducted and participants recruited.
  • Stage 2: FIP Launch
    Participants and workplan finalized and made public. Budget adopted (but need not be public).
  • Stage 3: FIP Implementation
    Workplan implemented and progress tracked.
  • Stage 4: Improvements in Fishing Practices or Fishery Management
    Demonstrated improvements in policy, management, or fishing practices documented.
  • Stage 5: Improvements on the Water
    Demonstrated improvements on the water documented.
FIP Objective(s)

Objectives define the near-term scope of the FIP and must be specific, measurable, and time-bound. Basic FIP objectives address a specific set of the environmental challenges identified in the needs assessment to improve the fishery’s performance against the MSC standard. Comprehensive FIP objectives address all of the fishery’s environmental challenges necessary to achieve a level of sustainability consistent with an unconditional pass of the MSC standard.


  • For a comprehensive FIP
    Achieve MSC certification by 2020.
  • For a basic FIP
    Promote the use of gear that diminishes environmental impacts by 2017.
    Promote full compliance with fishery regulations by 2018.
    Implement traceability programs to increase the producers’ transparency and accountability by 2020.
FAO Major Fishing Area
The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization has defined 27 major fishing areas around the world.
Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)
Countries have jurisdiction over the exploration and exploitation of marine resources within 200 nautical miles of their shores.
Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO)
RFMOs are international bodies made up of countries interested in managing fish stocks in a particular region. These include coastal countries whose waters are home to part of an identified fish stock and distant water fishing countries whose fleets travel to areas where a fish stock is found.
A fishery improvement project must include active participation by companies in the supply chain. Other important participants include government, fishery managers, and nongovernmental organizations. Participation means contributing financial or in-kind support to the project and/or working on activities in the workplan.
Memorandum of Understanding
A Memorandum of Understanding is one way of demonstrating the participants in a FIP. It should clearly identify the FIP scope or name, names and organizations of participants, specific terms of agreement (e.g., funding/in-kind support and/or activities to be conducted by each participant), and end date, and include confirmation that all parties have signed the MOU.
Participant List
A participant list is one way of demonstrating the participants in a FIP. It should include names and organizations of participants and the nature of their engagement in the FIP (e.g., funding/in-kind support and/or activities to be conducted by each participant).
A pre-assessment is a preliminary evaluation of a fishery against all MSC performance indicators to provide a picture of the fishery’s baseline environmental performance and challenges. A pre-assessment allows a fishery to identify any areas that need to be improved to reach an unconditional pass of the MSC standard. A pre-assessment must be completed by someone experienced with applying the MSC standard (e.g., is a registered MSC technical consultant or accredited auditing body).
Needs Assessment
A needs assessment is an evaluation of a fishery that covers the three principle areas of the MSC standard to determine environmental challenges and improvements needed in the fishery. It may not assess the fishery’s performance against every performance indicator at a detailed level.
Scoping Document
A scoping document summarizes the results of the needs assessment or pre-assessment and recommends strategies for addressing the fishery’s challenges to help fishery improvement project participants develop a workplan. If these elements are included in the fishery’s pre-assessment or needs assessment, a separate scoping document is not necessary.
A workplan includes a list of actions the FIP will undertake to meet its objectives, a breakdown of specific tasks under each action, organizations or people responsible for completing each action, and a month and year deadline for completing each action. Each action must be linked to the indicators it means to address.
An action describes what activities the FIP will undertake in order to reach its objectives.
Example: Define unit stock for country’s lobster.
You can break actions down into specific steps called tasks that describe how an action will be accomplished.
Example: Collection of research, and participation in it, to identify sub-stocks or banks within country; Based on information and discussion with experts, define the most adequate unit stock for future analysis (e.g., stock assessments, MSC assessment).
Proof of Budget
At minimum, proof of budget must include a list of main expenses and revenue sources for the FIP. A more comprehensive budget could list all of the costs associated with each activity, as well as secured funding and needed funding for each activity. A budget may anonymize or aggregate the sources of revenue, and may include in-kind contributions as well as monetary contributions. A FIP must update the budget once per year.
Indicator Baseline Supporting Documentation
A FIP must upload materials to verify its initial baseline indicator scores. If a FIP’s pre-assessment or needs assessment includes baseline scoring and supporting evidence, the assessment can meet this requirement. If not, the FIP must submit additional documentation to support its baseline scores against the indicators.
Marine Stewardship Council Fisheries Standard uses 28 indicators based on the MSC Fisheries Standard version 2.0 as a common measuring stick for all FIPs on the website. The MSC Fisheries Standard is accessible to all fisheries regardless of whether they decide to pursue certification. The standard was developed in consultation with scientists, the fishing industry, and conservation groups. It reflects the most up-to-date understanding of internationally accepted fisheries science and best practice management. The 28 indicators fall within three core principles: 1) sustainable fish stocks; 2) minimizing environmental impact; and 3) effective management.

FIPs must provide evidence of progress on actions in the workplan as well as outcomes achieved by the FIP.

Evidence for Action Progress
Evidence will vary depending on the actions. The following are examples of different kinds of evidence for action progress:

  • Signed agreements with consultants, government, or others demonstrating progress on specific activities such as research.
  • Meeting agendas, notes, and/or participant lists.
  • Letters sent to governments, suppliers, or others.
  • Media articles, blog posts, and/or statements posted on a website.

Evidence for Score Changes
Score changes may be driven by action progress (see above) or by demonstrated improvements in policy, management, or fishing practices or improvements on the water. Evidence will vary depending on the improvement reported. The following are examples of different kinds of evidence for various improvements a FIP may report:

  • Policy change
    management plan, ministerial decree, or media coverage documenting policy change.
  • Change in fishery status
    government or third-party reports showing improvement in fishery (e.g., stock assessment).
  • Changes in fishing practice
    government or consultant report, or summary report from FIP coordinator. For fishing practice changes, evidence must clearly state what proportion of the fishery has implemented the changes.
  • Research
    peer-reviewed study, consultant or government report, or grant report that confirms data being collected.
Independent Audit
An independent audit is an in-person review of a FIP’s action results and performance against the MSC standard (e.g., changes in fisheries policy, management, or fishing practices and ultimately the health of the fishery) by someone who has demonstrated experience applying the MSC standard and is independent from the organization implementing the FIP. Independent audit reports are required for comprehensive FIPs every three years, and encouraged for basic FIPs.