Exporting or moving fish from the UK from 1 January 2021

Guide

Last updated 8 June 2021

This guidance explains how to:

  • export fish from the UK to the EU
  • move fish between Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) and Northern Ireland (NI)

To export fish from the UK to the EU and the eight non-EU countries that require them (excluding Northern Ireland to the EU), you'll need a catch certificate.

It's your responsibility to check specific requirements for non-EU countries.

You'll need to follow customs and border inspection requirements.

You must meet:

All UK flagged vessels must meet sea fishing statutory requirements - see the sea fishing section of marine guidance.

There are no other requirements for consignments of fish and fishery products moving from:

  • NI to the EU
  • NI to GB

The only extremely limited exceptions apply where goods fall within procedures relating to specific international obligations binding on the UK (such as requirements on the trade of endangered species, or the movement of bluefin tuna or Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish).

Exporting fish from GB to the EU or moving it to Northern Ireland

To export fish from GB to the EU or move it to Northern Ireland, you'll need to:

  • make sure your importer pre-notifies via TRACES NT in advance of arrival
  • enter via an EU border control post (BCP) or a Northern Ireland point of entry (PoE)
  • provide an export health certificate (EHC)
  • provide a catch certificate - you need to validate this and send it to your importer

You may also need:

The UK and other countries use these documents to monitor fishing activity and to detect illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing.

Send fish from GB to an EU BCP or NI PoE
You'll need to send all consignments of fish and fishery products through an EU BCP or NI point of entry (PoE) with approved facilities if the fish was:

  • caught by a UK flagged vessel
  • imported into GB and processed or stored
  • landed anywhere except the EU or NI

BCPs in the EU
Find details of the most used BCPs in the EU:

Your EU importer must notify the BCP or PoE in NI in advance of your arrival. Notification periods vary. Check with the BCP or PoE to find out how much notice you must give.

Fishery products entering the EU via Calais or Coquelles must travel to the BCP at Boulogne-sur-Mer under a Common Transit Convention (CTC) declaration submitted up to 72 hours in advance of arrival. Lorries arriving in Calais or Coquelles will be directed to the green corridor to go to the Boulogne-sur-Mer BCP, where checks will be carried out.

Check the HMRC guidance to find out how to move your goods using the Common Transit Convention.

Create a catch certificate

You must create a catch certificate to export a consignment of fish that has been landed by a UK flagged catching vessel into the UK. A consignment is all products going across the border at the same time. This will be required for movements from:

  • GB to NI
  • GB to the EU
  • the UK to the rest of the world (excluding movements from NI to the EU)

The catch certificate shows that you've caught your fish legally. It includes:

  • details about the catching vessel including vessel name, PLN, licence number
  • the species and commodity code, also known as product code
  • amount of fish by species and net weight per vessel
  • when and where the fish was caught

Storage document - for fish stored on premises in GB but not processed
If you're exporting from GB to the EU, or moving fish from GB to NI, any fish sourced from another country that has been stored in GB for 24 hours or longer, but not processed in any way, you'll need to create a storage document.

You must keep a copy of the catch certificate from the original consignment with the storage document.

Processing statement - for fish processed in GB
If you're exporting from GB to the EU, or moving fish from GB to NI, any fish sourced from another country that has been processed in GB, you'll need to create a processing statement.

Include a copy of the catch certificate from the original consignment with the processing statement.

When you do not need a catch certificate
You do not need a catch certificate to export:

  • farmed fish and farmed shellfish
  • freshwater fish or freshwater shellfish
  • fish fry or larvae
  • some molluscs including mussels, cockles, oysters and scallops, but you'll still need a live shellfish registration document - contact your local council for more information

Check with the country into which you are importing what their requirements are.

Method of transport
You'll need to include transport details on the catch certificate and storage document. These will include by:

  • sea: the container numbers and the name and flag of the container vessel
  • air: the airway bill or flight number
  • road: the registration number of the vehicle or CMR note
  • rail: the railway bill number

You'll need to give these details to the importer so they can give them to the receiving member state's competent authority. You must do this by:

  • sea: 72 hours before landing
  • air and rail: 4 hours before arriving
  • road: 2 hours before arriving

Get an export health certificate

You'll need an export health certificate (EHC) for all:

  • exports of fish and shellfish (alive, dead and farmed fish) from GB to the EU
  • movements of fish and shellfish (alive, dead and farmed fish) from GB to Northern Ireland

To apply for an EHC, you'll need to be registered with EHC Online.

An EHC has to be signed and stamped by an official vet or local authority environmental health officer to confirm the quality and health of the export. There is no fee for the EHC, but you may need to pay for the services of the vet or local authority. Use the find a professional to certify EHCs list to identify an authorised signatory in your area.

If you're moving fish and shellfish to NI, you do not need to pay for them to be inspected and certified. The certifier invoices the government for these costs as part of the Movement Assistance Scheme.

Translated versions of the EHC also need to travel with the consignment to the EU, one in the language of the BCP and the other in the language of the final destination (if different). The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) will provide the translated EHCs.

EHCs are sometimes updated when export agreements are changed. Make sure you use the find an export health certificate tool for the latest version of a certificate.

Applications on out-of-date forms will be rejected and may cause delays to your export.

All exports from GB of fishery products landed by UK flagged vessels will need to be dispatched from a UK approved food establishment listed by the EU..

Use a logistics hub to export or move your products
You can use a logistics hub to export or move fish and shellfish.

Using a logistics hub can save you time by speeding up border processes. It does this by providing a central point for exports and expert staff in one location.

A logistics hub can:

  • consolidate your batch of products with others from different suppliers into a single consignment
  • collect your products and transport them to their destination in the EU or Northern Ireland
  • complete and process the EHCs for your products - including access to a certifying officer
  • provide a customs brokerage service

Not all logistics hubs offer the same services. Contact your logistics company or email: traders@defra.gov.uk to find out more about logistics hubs.

Your products need to be accompanied by the relevant supporting documents when they arrive at the logistics hub. For example, if you’re sending products to a logistics hub directly from a fishing vessel, you may need to provide documents confirming the vessel’s hygiene status.

The certifying officer will need to check these documents before they can certify the EHC.

Contact the logistics hub to find out what information you need to send with your products, and when you need to send it.

Comply with Rules of Origin for tariff-free trade

To trade with the EU without paying tariffs all goods need to comply with the preferential Rules of Origin. You need to be able to prove the origin of goods, according to the Product Specific Rules in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

Read more about the rules of origin for goods moving between the UK and EU.

Composite products

Composite fish products and those that use tariff codes starting 1604 or 1605 will need to:

  • have the relevant IUU document(s)
  • enter via a BCP and will be subject to veterinary checks
  • have an EHC

This also applies if you're moving these fish products to NI.

Read guidance on exporting composite food products to find out the rules you'll need to follow.

Direct landings of UK-flagged fishing vessels into the EU

To land your catch from your UK flagged fishing vessel directly into the EU (or to land your catch from your vessel registered in Great Britain into Northern Ireland), you'll need to land in a North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) designated EU port.

Before landing, you'll need to complete and submit a:

Fishery enforcement officers may inspect your fish when you arrive.

Prior notification form
If you're landing in an EU member state or NI with:

Regardless of which form you fill in, you must email them to your destination's NEAFC designated port before landing. You need to send it for:

  • frozen fish, at least 72 hours before landing
  • fresh fish, at least 4 hours before landing

Pre-landing declaration
You'll need to fill in a pre-landing declaration and email it to your destination's designated port 4 hours before landing.

You'll need to give details of the consignment, including the:

  • area fished
  • quantity of fish by species on board the vessel

Approved UK flagged fishing vessels landing frozen or processed fish
Local authority approved freezer, reefer or factory vessels registered to ports in GB that land frozen or processed fish directly into the EU or NI will require:

  • a Captain's Certificate signed by the Captain who is authorised by APHA
  • the fish to be landed into a BCP in the EU or a PoE in NI approved for the type of fishery product

If your vessel is approved and the captain requires authorisation you should have been contacted by APHA. If you believe you require your captain to be authorised and have not been contacted, please email FishEHC@defra.gov.uk.

'Processing' includes activities such as mincing and filleting. Read more about processing, presentation and marketing of fish.

Non-food approved registered vessels that land fresh fish directly into the EU at a NEAFC designated port will not:

  • require an export health certificate
  • need to pass through a BCP

They will still be subject to any normal official controls within the port. 'Fresh fish' may have undergone primary production, which may include de-heading or gutting.

UK-flagged vessels registered to ports in NI ('NI-registered vessels') landing their catch in NI or EU ports do not:

  • have to land at designated ports for SPS purposes
  • need a Captain's Certificate to land processed products from food approved vessels
  • have to be listed by the EU as third country vessels approved for exports, if a food-approved vessel

This applies to fish caught in any location by NI-registered vessels.

North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) Port State Control forms
Speak to your licensing authority who can register your fishing vessel with NEAFC.

Once your vessel is registered, you'll need to create an account to submit a NEAFC Port State Control form before landing.

For direct landings you'll need to submit form PSC1.

Check with the NEAFC to find out how much notice you need to give before landing. This will vary depending on the country you're exporting to and how your product is presented.

Return rejected fish exports to GB from the EU

If your consignment of fish is rejected at an EU BCP, you may be able to return the goods to GB. This will depend on the reason it was rejected at the BCP.

The EU may reject or confiscate your fish export if:

  • you did not provide catch certificates and related documents
  • your documents have errors or are not accepted
  • it failed health or identity checks

Fish products will only be accepted back to GB if they meet certain conditions.

Your fish may not be able to re-enter GB if a catch certificate was not sent by the exporter to the designated EU port in advance.

Speak to your customs representative and EU importer to find out if you can correct mistakes or supply further information to complete the export. The EU BCP will decide whether to accept your export.

To return your goods to GB, follow the returned goods policy for products of animal origin.

Endangered fish and shellfish

If you want to export endangered species of fish, follow guidance getting a permit to export endangered species

Eels

You cannot export or move European eels (Anguilla anguilla) from GB to the EU or NI. This is because they're listed in annex B of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and the EU has a ban on imports and a zero export quota because of its assessment that such trade is detrimental to the survival of the species.

For some specific trade in European eel from GB and NI, the UK CITES Scientific Authority has determined that it has been demonstrated scientifically that this trade is non-detrimental to the wild population of European eel but the evidence provided by the UK is still being considered by the relevant EU CITES body.

Bluefin tuna and Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish

Direct landings, imports and exports of bluefin tuna or Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish into and from the UK (except for movements between NI and the EU) will require validated catch documents to be submitted to the importing competent authority or relevant fisheries administration, and verifications of those to take place.

In line with the extremely limited exceptions to unfettered access for NI businesses moving goods from NI to GB where there is a specific international obligation binding on the UK, the movement of these species between GB and NI, in both directions, will also require the submission of these catch documents and verifications will be carried out as appropriate.

Customs requirements

You must comply with HMRC guidance on customs requirements for exporting to the EU.

These rules apply to exports:

  • exports from GB to the EU of fish caught by a UK flagged fishing vessel
  • exports from GB to the EU of fish imported from another country, that have been stored or processed in the UK
  • direct landings in EU (NEAFC) ports by a UK flagged fishing vessel

Get help with fish export documents

Export fish helpline:

Telephone: 0330 159 1989
24 hours a day
Find out about call charges