MSC strengthens independent peer review for fisheries assessments

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By Milthon Lujan

UK.- The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has strengthened the peer review process for MSC assessments by formally establishing an independent Peer Review College. The College will give greater confidence to the MSC, fisheries and certifiers of the competence, independence and credibility of all peer reviewers involved in assessments to the MSC Fisheries Standard.


The Peer Review College currently includes around 50 independent experts in marine science and fisheries management. It is administered by the MSC under the direction of a Peer Review Oversight Committee, composed of two representatives of the MSC’s Stakeholder Advisory Council and one representative of the Technical Advisory Board.

Additional confidence in peer review

“Peer review of independent certifiers’ initial assessment of a fishery is already an important part of the MSC assessment process, ensuring that certifiers’ decisions are based on evidence and that all information is considered in an impartial and accurate way,” said Dan Hoggarth, the MSC’s Head of Standards Governance. “The Peer Review College has been established to give additional confidence that reviewers are independent and well qualified. It also provides a centralised means of tracking and improving the performance of peer reviewers and ensuring that the rigour of our standard and assessment process is upheld.”

Members of the Peer Review College have at least five years’ experience in a relevant area of fisheries or marine conservation management or research, as well as relevant academic qualifications. They have also passed training on the MSC Fisheries Standard and are required to declare any potential conflicts of interest relevant to any assessment they are considered for as a reviewer.

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Peer reviewers are selected to review fishery assessment documents based on their knowledge of the type, location and issues associated with the fishery. Each fishery assessment is normally reviewed by two members of the Peer Review College, with the selections guided by two third party scientists engaged by the College.

Additional scrutiny welcomed by certifiers and fisheries

Dr Keith Sainsbury, one of the Peer Review College’s third party scientists said: “The results of the pilot have been very encouraging. Both certifiers and fisheries have seen the benefit of a thorough review of assessments by two independent experts at an early stage in an assessment. Reviewers comments add additional scrutiny and clarification to assessors’ reports and certifiers have responded well to their feedback.”

The Peer Review College was established as a pilot in 2016, following the recommendations of an independent review of the MSC’s processes in 2011 and consultations with stakeholders in 2013. Conformity Assessment Bodies (CABs), accredited to assess fisheries to the MSC Fisheries Standard were notified of the final transition to the College to a formal part of the MSC process on 1 August 2017. Reviewers must be sourced from the College in all new MSC fishery assessments from 1 September 2017.


An overview of the College structure and other details are available on

Further information about the MSC’s governance structure is available on

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