Finning in MSC certified fisheries? Impossible you would think!

Fin Free MSC

The MSC label is supposed to be a sign of sustainable fishing. However, more and more fisheries are being certified that either entirely or partly engage in highly damaging forms of fishing. Because of this, we have already launched the "Make Stewardship Count" campaign with many partners. With the aim to make the MSC to rethink.

From the point of view of a shark conservation organization, however, the situation is even worse. Because fish with the MSC label and the designation "from certified sustainable fisheries" often come from fisheries that still practice "finning". And the MSC still refuses to establish effective precautionary measures to ensure that finning can no longer occur in certified fisheries. One such measure could be the "Fins Naturally Attached" regulation. This means that the fins must still be naturally attached to the body of the animal when it is landed in port, and must therefore no longer be cut off at sea. This measure is considered by global experts to be the most effective against finning.

Unfortunately, the MSC continues to deliberately ignore global expert advice. This completely contradicts MSC's statement that "there remains a zero-tolerance approach to shark finning in fisheries certified by them". Therefore, since 2018, stakeholders from conservation, trade, fisheries and governments have written multiple letters to MSC to correct this almost unimaginable paradox in the fisheries standard and certification practice of arguably the world's largest seafood sustainability label. A central concern was to obtain the withdrawal of the certification of fisheries, such as the PNA (Parties of the Nauru Agreement) tuna fishery in the western Central Pacific, where there is evidence of finning. Unfortunately, however, the MSC has so far not given in and withdrawn the sustainability label from the world's largest MSC-certified tuna fishery. On the contrary, it was even re-certified.

However, as we did not want to give up and instead wanted to exert a more coordinated and targeted influence on the MSC, we launched the international campaign "Fin Free MSC" together with various partners. Under this name, we stand together for a change in their certification standards. To this end, the cooperation partners write joint letters, prepare studies and reports, take part in consultations and coordinate joint social media campaigns.


Our central demand is to introduce "Fins Naturally Attached as a minimum requirement for all fisheries that catch sharks specifically or have them as by-catch in their fisheries - without exceptions! This requires a comprehensive revision of the MSC standards:

  • Evidence of shark finning must immediately exclude a fishery from the MSC certification process.
  • Any fishery that interacts with sharks in any way must have a "Fins Naturally Attached" policy in place at the time of certification - with no exceptions.
  • The "Fins Naturally Attached" requirement must apply to all assessment policies, regardless of whether the sharks are classified as primary, secondary or ETP species in the assessment.
  • In the assessment, all fisheries that interact with sharks should be subject to an assessment of the risk (low, medium or high) of finning in the fishery, based on objective, verifiable criteria such as target species, gear type and fishing area.
  • The fishery should then be assessed against performance indicators related to shark finning. Where each assessment level (SG 60, 80 and 100) requires a "Fins Naturally Attached" policy, as well as a level of monitoring that is commensurate with the level of risk in that fishery and that increases across assessment levels to incentivize improvement.


The coalition will continue to fight for this until a rethink has taken place, the demands have been implemented and the MSC label is Fin Free.


First letter from 2018 to the MSC

Report from 2018 on PNA fisheries

Second letter of 2019 to the MSC

Submission to the 2019 MSC Consultation

Discussion paper by Iris Ziegler 2020

Third joint letter in January 2020 to the MSC

Fourth joint letter in October 2020 to the MSC

Report 2021: Analysis of the MSC's policy on shark finning and the possibility of adopting a "Fins Naturally Attached" policy as part of their revision of the Fisheries Standard.


Campaign website:

Sharkproject Webinar:

Live Talk during Shark Awareness Week:

Involved partners

We work together with various international organizations, scientists and traders. A full list can be found on the Fin Free MSC website.


Sharkproject has initiated a joint letter to seek the withdrawal of certification from fisheries, such as the PNA (Parties of the Nauru Agreement) tuna fishery in the Western Central Pacific, where there is evidence of finning.

5 October 2018

The MSC receives this letter together with a detailed background briefing - signed by 45 environmental organizations, including the UK retailer Marks & Spencer.

5 April 2019

2nd letter to the MSC - this time from 57 signatories, including many environmental organizations such as Sharkproject, Greenpeace, WildAid, and renowned scientists such as Prof. Callum Roberts and Dr. Catherine Dorey. Also, several retailers such as Migros, Woolworths, fisheries, and the South African Department of Fisheries.


Input from partners in the public consultation launched by MSC on further action against finning. However, MSC ignored the signatories' call for a "Fins Naturally Attached" regulation to be introduced as soon as possible.


Third (57 signatories) and fourth (more than 70 signatories) joint letter. They urge the MSC to finally take action and no longer ignore the concrete demands of stakeholders from environmental protection, trade, industry and science.


MSC Standard Review, with the result that almost 70% of respondents reject their finning policy.


Publication of the report: Analysis of the MSC's policy on shark finning and the possibility of adopting a "Fins Naturally Attached" policy as part of the revision of their Fisheries Standard.