Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs)

Enhancing the Sustainability of Wild Capture Fisheries

What are Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs)?

 SCS-designed FIPs connect you to a global network of accredited marine science and fishery management experts, and are tailored to match your goals, optimize implementation, and communicate effectively to your customers. Position your wild-capture fishery to meet the growing demand for sustainable seafood with a well-designed and validated Fishery Improvement Project (FIP). SCS provides project design and validation services to support successful FIPs outcomes. 

Depend on our extensive technical expertise in fisheries science and management, based on decades of services to the seafood industry, to help you to benchmark your progress against credible, established metrics. 

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FIPs is the international designation for strategic work plans that enable fisheries to become more sustainable, efficient and competitive. FIPs help you demonstrate your commitment to sustainability to buyers, consumers, retailers, community leaders and other key stakeholders. 

We offer design and validation services for two types of FIPs:

  • MSC Benchmarked FIP - An MSC-Benchmarked FIP gives you the option of preparing your fishery for full MSC certification. Fisheries are evaluated against the internationally recognized Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard. SCS can either design the FIP or provide ongoing planning to help implement specific aspects of the work.
  • Flexible FIP - Flexible FIPs are used to establish an incremental improvement plan for your fishery, no matter where you currently are on the sustainability spectrum. Our marine scientists help you develop strategies for adopting industry-recognized best practices, customized to your fishery’s needs to deliver greater efficiency, sustainability and transparency. A Flexible FIP may also prepare your fishery for an MSC-Benchmarked FIP.

Please contact us to learn how to structure your FIP and future MSC assessment in a manner that works for you. If you intend to proceed to full MSC certification, we will work with you to prevent potential conflicts of interest, depending upon how extensively we are involved in the implementation of the FIP.

Fishery Improvement Areas

A wide range of areas can be included in your FIP, such as:

  • Data collection and monitoring systems
  • Methods to assess stock health
  • Options for bycatch reduction and mitigation
  • Policy development strategies
Project Deliverables

Depending upon the FIP, deliverables can include:

  • Gap analysis of your operations against sustainability standards
  • Work plan prioritizing activities according to duration, complexity and resources
  • Overarching strategy that would enhance preparedness for a MSC certification
  • MSC-based milestones to benchmark interim performance

SCS understands the need to use expert time wisely and to design work plans responsive to local capacity.  

Eligible Clients

Any freshwater or marine fishery – regardless of size, gear, scale, ecology, or geography – can undertake a FIP, including:

  • Single species and multiple species
  • Trawl, longline, handraked and pots methods
  • Inshore and offshore
  • Pelagic and demersal

Eligible clients include industry associations, cooperatives, suppliers, NGOs, government agencies, and local management authorities. SCS can address the needs of clients in developing countries and those in data-poor situations.

  1. Scope Project

    SCS’ team of experts meets with you to determine which FIP option would work best for your fishery. We customize the FIP scope to address your fishery’s opportunities for improvement against your objectives and market drivers.

  2. Authorize a Work Order

    SCS prepares a written proposal with a timeline, budget and work order for your approval. When the proposal has been accepted, and the work order signed, a neutral third party initiates a conflict of interest provision between your organization and SCS.

  3. Document gathering

    A SCS technical coordinator helps you assemble preliminary documentation that will be submitted to SCS. We review documentation against objectives in order to determine focal areas for your FIP and also to pinpoint any data gaps that must be addressed in order to fully understand your fishery’s impact.

  4. On-site Audits

    A team of experts and auditors conducts on-site visits to further collect and evaluate data. The team interacts with your technical staff to gather, clarify and obtain any additional information that might help identify improvement opportunities.

  5. Goal Setting

    Based on findings from documentation and onsite visits, SCS helps you develop strategic goals that will deliver cost-effective, measureable improvements. These goals could be comprehensive or could focus on just one technical area, depending on your needs.

  6. Work Plan and Tool Development

    The SCS team works with your organization to develop work plans and tools to meet your FIP goals. These tools could include data collection and tracking systems, metric development, governance and policy recommendations, communication strategies and more.

  7. Stakeholder Review

    You may opt to have SCS convene key stakeholders to provide feedback on your FIP. Stakeholder review is valuable for creating strategic alliances and obtaining insight into how best to communicate your efforts.

  8. FIP Reports

    We report findings, recommendations and preliminary results. Your organization has the opportunity to revise the report so that all parties have the same understanding of the improvements and the path forward. SCS can also advise on a communications plan to key stakeholders.

  9. Ongoing Evaluation

    We provide ongoing support to help you track progress, to provide further guidance, and to update scores against benchmarking tools. SCS can also provide client marketing support.

Enhancing the sustainability of your fishery can yield efficiencies within your operations and give you a competitive edge in the marketplace.

Potential operational advantages include:
  • Cost-savings from waste reduction
  • Improved fishing efficiency and safety
  • Reduced risk of fishery closures
  • Higher proportion of useable catch
  • Eligibility for grants and investment funding
Potential marketplace advantages include:
  • Increased supply chain and livelihood stability
  • Broader buyer networks through eligibility for sustainable sourcing programs
  • Factual content to substantiate sustainability marketing
  • Access to price premiums
  • Preparation to eventually achieve MSC certification
  • Improved reputation and leadership recognition among key stakeholders
What Types of Wild-Caught Fisheries can Undertake FIPs?

Any freshwater or marine fishery - regardless of size, scale, ecology, or geography - can conduct a FIP. Eligible fisheries include, but are not limited to:

  • Single species and multiple species
  • Trawl, longline, handraked and pots methods
  • Inshore and offshore
  • Pelagic and demersal
Why Should I Conduct a FIP?

 FIPs provide insight into management performance and establish actionable steps to protect stocks, livelihoods and market relationships. A FIP is an investment in the future of your business.

How Do I Know If I’m Ready for a MSC Benchmarked FIP?

A management commitment to responsible fishing and transparency is recommended before pursuing an MSC-Benchmarked FIP. Full assessment does not have to be the goal of an MSC-Benchmarked FIP. The MSC framework is useful regardless of performance or certification objectives because it is an accepted system for demonstrating progress that is familiar to international markets and buyers.

How Do I Know If I’m Ready for a Flexible FIP?

Any wild-caught fishery is ready for a Flexible FIP. The Flexible FIP could target one area of improvement (e.g., ecosystem stewardship; gear modification to lessen habitat damage; decreasing uncertainty in existing stock assessment methods; reducing bycatch), or could be comprehensive, addressing multiple areas.

How Long Does a FIP Last?

Completion of a FIP can require several weeks to more than a year, depending on the scope of the FIP and the complexity of the fishery.

Is FIP a Certification or Label?

The completion of a FIP does not result in eligibility to use a certification label, but it can be used to benchmark a fishery against performance indicators within the MSC standard.  Working with an accredited certification body such as SCS assures your clients that they can trust the results of your initiative.  An MSC-Benchmarked FIP helps prepare your fishery for a full MSC assessment, which does allow use of the highly recognized MSC ecolabel.

Why Choose SCS?

As the first certifier to issue Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certificates, SCS has been conducting full assessments, pre-assessments, and improvement initiatives in the Americas, Asia, Russia, and Australia/NZ since 1999. SCS can design FIPs fully aligned with the MSC system, parts of it, or unique goals specific to a given fishery. Working with SCS gives you access to a global network of marine science and fishery experts who can be brought together to provide guidance tailored to your specific needs. 

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Gabriela Anhalzer