Importing or moving fish to the UK

Guide

Last updated 31 January 2024

New Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) import controls began on 31 January 2024.

To import or move fish to Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales), in addition to existing import requirements, you need to:  

  • check the BTOM risk category for the commodity you’re importing
  • upload a health certificate to IPAFFS if your goods are in the medium or high risk category

Read the section ‘BTOM risk categories’ on this page for more information.

This guidance explains how to import or move fish for human consumption to the UK.

You should follow guidance on importing live fish and shellfish if you’re importing live fish, molluscs and crustaceans not for direct human consumption.

This guidance also applies to goods imported for commercial purposes by post or courier. Contact your post or courier service for more information about the process.

Illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing documents

To import most fish to the UK from another country (excluding EU fish into Northern Ireland), you’ll need to get a validated catch certificate from the competent authority of the country where the fishing vessel is registered or licensed.

The format of catch certificates will vary depending on which exporting country produced them, but they will all ask for specific information such as:

If your fish has been processed or stored in a country other than where the fishing vessel is registered or licensed, you’ll also need one or both of the following types of documentation:

  • a processing statement that has been endorsed by the competent authority in the country where the fish was processed
  • proof of storage issued by the competent authority in the country where it was stored

These documents (including the catch certificate) help combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. They are usually referred to as the IUU documents.

You must submit the required IUU documents (catch certificate, processing statement or proof of storage) to the relevant port health authority at the following times:

  • 72 hours in advance for imports by sea
  • 4 hours in advance for imports by rail and air
  • 2 hours in advance for imports by road

Port health authorities will charge a fee for checking your IUU documents. These fees will vary as each authority sets their own rates depending on their costs.

BTOM risk categories

New import controls began on 31 January 2024. Imports of fish and fishery products are now categorised into high, medium and low risk categories under the Border Target Operating Model (BTOM)

The BTOM risk category for your product determines which sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) rules you need to follow, and which SPS border checks your consignment will be subjected to.

These rules are explained in the next section.

IUU rules are separate from SPS requirements – they apply regardless of your product’s BTOM risk category.

Freight imports of fish and fishery products to the UK

Importers of most fish and fishery products (as products of animal origin) from EU and non-EU countries need to:

  • submit IUU fishing documents to the port health authority before the consignment arrives (this also applies to imports from the Republic of Ireland)
  • submit an import notification in IPAFFS
  • check the BTOM risk category for the commodity you’re importing
  • upload a health certificate to IPAFFS if your goods are in the medium or high BTOM risk category
  • comply with customs requirements (such as submitting a customs import declaration and paying duties and VAT). Read more about making a customs import declaration
  • check that you have the correct documents if moving CITES-listed goods, or goods subject to restrictions (such as bluefin tuna or Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish)

If you need help with your import notification, call the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) helpline on 03300 416 999 or email APHAServiceDesk@apha.gov.uk.

Health certificates need to be completed and signed by an authorised certifying officer. For fishery products, this can be a non-veterinary certifying officer qualified to do this task.

At entry, all goods will be subject to documentary and ID checks, and a small proportion of goods will be subject to physical checks.

Movements of fishery products from the EU to Northern Ireland are subject to different requirements. These movements are not subject to any new checks or requirements. Read more guidance from DAERA about moving fish and fishery products into and out of Northern Ireland.

Point of entry

UK freight imports will be checked by port health authorities in Great Britain or fisheries authorities in Northern Ireland. Northern Irish fisheries authorities will also check any fishery products moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland that are not eligible for the Northern Ireland Retail Movement Scheme.

Imports or movements of fish from:

  • non-EU, non-European Economic Area (EEA) or non-European Free Trade Association (EFTA) countries to the UK must enter at a border control post (BCP)
  • EU, EEA or EFTA countries to Great Britain do not need to enter at a BCP
  • Great Britain to Northern Ireland must enter at a designated point of entry in Northern Ireland

From 30 April 2024 imports of fish from EU, EEA or EFTA countries will need to enter at a BCP.

Read the section ‘Importing or moving fish to Great Britain from 30 April 2024’ below for more information.

Imports from the EU

To import goods from 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 HMRC guidance to understand the steps you need to take.

Moving fish from Northern Ireland to Great Britain  

Most fish in free circulation in Northern Ireland moving to Great Britain are categorised as qualifying Northern Ireland goods. This means that traders are only expected to meet pre-existing obligations, such as those contained within the Fisheries Control Regulation, and are not subject to any new checks or requirements. The only exceptions are Bluefin Tuna and Antarctic and Patagonian Toothfish.

Moving fish from Great Britain to Northern Ireland

The Northern Ireland Retail Movement Scheme (NIRMS) allows traders to move eligible goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland under ‘green lane’ customs arrangements. Find out more about NIRMS.

Other fish and fishery products being moved from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, which are not eligible for the NIRMS, will need to:

  • be pre-notified by the importer on TRACES in advance of arrival
  • enter at an appropriately designated Northern Ireland point of entry
  • have an export health certificate (EHC)
  • where relevant, have appropriate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) documents including a validated catch certificate, processing statement or proof of storage

Traders can create IUU documents through the online Fish Export Service.

Approved food establishments

Establishments that handle, prepare or produce products of animal origin (POAO) need to be approved in line with food hygiene regulations. Approval can be granted either by the relevant local authority, or by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) (or Food Standards Scotland), depending on the nature of the production.

These establishments include those that work with fishery products, such as:

  • factory, freezing and reefer vessels
  • processing plants
  • auction halls
  • wholesale markets
  • cold stores

See the list of UK approved establishments, and find out how to apply to become one, at the FSA’s approved food establishments page.

To export to the EU, or more products to Northern Ireland, you must use an approved establishment.

Direct landings by foreign fishing vessels into the UK

All foreign fishing vessels landing catch directly into the UK must land into a North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) designated port, even if landing fish caught outside of the NEAFC convention area.

Foreign vessels catching fish outside of this area will be subject to IUU checks at the same ports, for purposes of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA).

Foreign vessels that catch fish inside the NEAFC convention area and directly land into the UK must submit a NEAFC Port State Control form (PSC1) before landing.

Foreign vessels (except for EU vessels landing into Northern Ireland) will also need to complete a:

  • prior notification form
  • pre-landing declaration
  • catch certificate

You must wait for permission to land by UK fisheries authorities. Your vessel may be inspected when it lands.

Fisheries administrations are responsible for checking catch certificates for direct landings of fish into the UK. The fisheries administrations are:

Prior notification form

Foreign vessels landing into the UK (except for EU vessels landing into Northern Ireland) will need to complete a prior notification form and email it to the UK fisheries management centre (FMC) (UKFMC@gov.scot) before landing.

It will need to be sent for:

  • frozen fish, at least 72 hours before landing
  • fresh fish, at least 4 hours before landing
  • a mix of fresh and frozen fish, at least 4 hours before landing

Foreign vessels landing into the UK (except for EU vessels landing into Northern Ireland) with fishery products that are exempt from IUU fishing regulations, will need to complete an exempt fisheries products prior notification form.

Pre-landing declaration

Foreign vessels landing into the UK (except for EU vessels landing into Northern Ireland) will need to fill in a pre-landing declaration and email it to the UK fisheries management centre (FMC) (UKFMC@gov.scot) at least 4 hours before landing. This form should be available from your competent authority.

Vessels will need to give details of the consignment, including the:

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

Direct landings from non-EU flagged freezer or factory vessels

There is a separate process for freezer, factory or reefer vessels landing fish that has undergone secondary processing (for example, freezing or wrapping). These vessels will need to:

  • enter via a designated point of entry in line with sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regulations
  • provide a captain’s certificate signed by the captain who is authorised by the APHA

These requirements will be introduced for EU-flagged freezer, factory or reefer vessels in 2024, under the Border Target Operating Model.

Direct landings by Great Britain-flagged fishing vessels into Northern Ireland

UK-flagged vessels with their port of registration in England, Wales or Scotland landing fresh fishery products (or fish that has undergone primary production such as de-heading) directly into ports in Northern Ireland will need to:

  • land into a port designated in line with IUU fishing regulations
  • submit a prior notification form and a pre-landing declaration 4 hours in advance of landing taking place
  • send a complete and validated catch certificate to the competent authority in Northern Ireland (if applicable to the species of fish being landed)

Direct landings (either the vessel or the catch) may be given risk-based checks at the designated port where they land.

There is a separate process for freezer, factory or reefer vessels landing fish that has undergone secondary processing (for example, freezing or wrapping). These vessels will need to:

  • enter via a designated point of entry in line with SPS regulations
  • provide a captain’s certificate signed by the captain who is authorised by the APHA

The vessels will need to be approved in line with food hygiene regulations by the relevant local authority and listed by the EU.

Direct landings by Northern Ireland-registered fishing vessels into Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland-registered vessels are only required to meet pre-existing obligations, such as those contained within the Fisheries Control Regulation, when landing into ports in Northern Ireland until further notice.

Re-exporting fish imported from a third country

If you import fish with a catch certificate and then re-export to the EU, you will need to complete the re-export section of the catch certificate. This does not apply to Northern Ireland to Great Britain or Northern Ireland to EU trade.

Countries you cannot import from

You cannot import fish caught by vessels with flags from Comoros, Cambodia or Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. This is because these countries have not been cooperative in taking action against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. You cannot import from unapproved countries.

Fish imports may be temporarily or permanently prohibited for public health and biosecurity reasons. Before you import, check with the FSA website and the BCP where you plan to bring in your consignment.

Endangered fish and shellfish

If you want to import endangered species of fish, follow guidance about getting a permit to import endangered species.

Eels

Contact the APHA Centre for International Trade: Bristol for advice if you plan to import European eels.

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 Northern Ireland and the EU) will require validated catch documents. These must be submitted to the importing competent authority or relevant fisheries administration, to allow checks to take place.

The movement of these species between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in both directions, will also require the submission of these catch documents.

Ornamental fish and shellfish and aquaculture

Read guidance on rules you must follow to import live fish or shellfish for ornamental or aquaculture purposes.

Customs requirements

You must comply with HMRC guidance on customs requirements for importing fishery products into the UK, including direct landings.

If you need help with your customs declaration you can contact HMRC about imports and exports.

Importing or moving fish to Great Britain from 30 April 2024

To import or move fish to Great Britain from 30 April, you will need to:

  • continue to follow existing import requirements
  • upload your IUU documents (if applicable) to IPAFFS (instead of providing them to the port health authority)
  • input required information from your IUU documents into IPAFFS
  • ensure your goods enter Great Britain through a point of entry with a border control post (BCP) that is designated to check your commodity

If a port health authority identifies a problem with your documentation, they will be able to carry out physical checks for both IUU and SPS purposes. This will apply for all consignments, including those in the low risk category.