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The assessment process involves a comprehensive scientific review by an expert assessment team. This process has six stages and can take up to twelve months to complete:
- Audubon Nature Institute submits an Application on behalf of a fishery to an Accredited Certification Body for their review.
- The Certification Body prepares a Validation Report, a pre-assessment of the fishery that quickly identifies strengths and weaknesses before proceeding with a full assessment.
- The Certification Body and expert Assessment Team proceed with the full assessment, performing the Assessment Verification/Information Review and Site Visits, and producing the Assessment Report.
- At least two independent experts conduct an External Peer Review of the assessment.
- The Assessment Team produces the Final Assessment Report and presents it to the independent Certification Committee. The report contains all information from previous steps and a recommendation from the Assessment Team for certification.
- The Certification Committee makes the final Certification Decision.
Stakeholders may provide input throughout the assessment process during site visits and by independently submitting information into the process.
When a fishery is awarded certification, the fishery then enters a program of annual surveillance assessments to maintain certification, with a complete reassessment required every five years.