We describe the certification of the red rock lobster fishery of Mexico and the resulting empowerment of the fishing cooperatives. The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification program recognizes sustainable fishing; the Mexican lobster is the first community-based fishery to be certified. Lobster is harvested by fishermen cooperatives that have limited access rights, organizational incentives, self-management ability, and investment in fixed and social capital. The lobster fishery represents effective co-management by government and cooperatives and MSC certification that leads to non-economic benefits, especially empowerment and community strengthening. MSC certification has had a positive impact on fishermen's cooperatives and gained international recognition for the Mexican fishery policy, with the possibility of increased renewal of fishermen's access rights. We argue that co-management and community-based decision-making addresses the issue of fish sustainability. The benefits of MSC certification could not be repeated in other fisheries in Mexico, where fishermen do not share strong management and community identity. © 2012 Elsevier Ltd.