MSC extends assessment timeline amid COVID-19 outbreak
For the first time in the Marine Stewardship Council’s history, the organization is offering a six-month extension on the usual timeline for all assessments and certifications in response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
The board of trustees for the MSC unanimously decided on 27 March to extend the deadlines as the impacts of the pandemic continue to affect the industry. The extension applies to all audits and the delivery of conditions that may have been required for certification.
“This is an extraordinary moment in history, unprecedented in modern times. MSC is acutely aware that many of our partners are facing enormous challenges and uncertainty. For some it may be a question of survival,” MSC CEO Rupert Howes said in a release. “Whilst the regional situation varies, supply chains have been disrupted, in some cases broken, plants have been closed and vessels tied up. Management is quite rightly focusing on responding to the crisis. It is for this reason that we have implemented these new measures.”
Fishery partners that want to continue the current timeline can continue that if they wish, the MSC said, if it is feasible and agreed to by the organization’s conformity assessment bodies.
The decision follows an earlier one that enabled all fisheries and chain of custody certificate holders to be audited remotely, which was made in light of ongoing travel restrictions and public health advice that made it difficult – or impossible – to carry out on-site visits.
“For supply chain businesses with an MSC Chain of Custody certificate, audits can still be conducted remotely,” the MSC stated. “But if this is not possible due to the impacts of COVID-19, then a six-month extension can be requested.”
The MSC added that it will be contacting “fisheries, conformity assessment bodies, and partners in the sustainable seafood supply chain with further information in the coming days.”
Other activities, like licensing of products, will continue.
“MSC wants to do what it can to support our partners through these exceptionally challenging times,” Howes said.