Importing or moving fish to the UK from 1 January 2021
Last updated 5 January 2021
To import fish to the UK from another country (excluding EU fish into Northern Ireland), you'll need a catch certificate validated by the country where the fishing vessel is registered or licensed.
The format of catch certificates will vary as they are produced by the exporting country, but they will ask for specific information such as:
- vessel name
- catch species
- estimated weights
For fish that has been stored or processed you may also need additional documents, validated by the relevant competent authority. These are a:
- storage document from the exporter
- processing statement filled in by the processor
Port health authorities in Great Britain (England, Scotland or Wales) or fisheries authorities in Northern Ireland (NI) will check these documents for UK freight imports. Fisheries administrations are responsible for checking catch certificates for direct landings into the UK.
If you're moving fish or fishery products from NI to GB there are no requirements. 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).
All UK-registered vessels need to meet control regulation requirements when landing into GB.
All imports of fish and shellfish to the UK must have a health certificate issued by the country of origin.
The Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) will check health certificates on imports from non-EU countries at the border control post (BCP).
Port health authorities will check health certificates on imports from EU countries at the BCP.
You must submit the common veterinary entry document (CVED) (PDF) to APHA at least two days before the fish or shellfish arrive.
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 illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) checks at the same ports, for purposes of the 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 NI) will also need to complete a:
UK fisheries authorities may inspect the fish you import.
Prior notification form
Foreign vessels landing into the UK (except for EU vessels landing into NI) will need to complete a prior notification form and email it to the designated UK port 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
Foreign vessels landing into the UK (except for EU vessels landing into NI) with fishery products that are exempt from IUU fishing regulations, will need to complete an exempt fisheries products prior notification form.
Foreign vessels landing into the UK (except for EU vessels landing into NI) will need to fill in a pre-landing declaration and email it to the designated UK port 4 hours before landing. These should be available from your competent authority.
They will need to give details of the consignment, including the:
- area fished
- quantity of fish by species on board the vessel
Special requirements for EU approved fishing vessels
Local authority approved freezer, reefer or factory vessels that land frozen or processed fish directly into GB will also require:
- a Captain's Certificate signed by the captain who is authorised by their competent authority from April 2021
- the fish to be landed into a BCP approved for the landed fishery product from July 2021
Non-food approved registered vessels that land fresh fish directly into GB at a NEAFC designated port will not need:
- a health certificate
- to pass through a BCP
They will still be subject to any normal official controls within the port.
Direct landings by GB-flagged fishing vessels into NI
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 NI will need to:
- land into a port designated in line with IUU fishing regulations
- submit a prior notification form, a pre-landing declaration and a transhipment declaration (if applicable) four hours in advance of landing or the transhipment taking place
- send a complete and validated catch certificate to the competent authority in NI (if applicable to the species of fish being landed)
You cannot land live bivalve molluscs in this way.
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 sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regulations
- provide a Captain's Certificate signed by the captain who is authorised by 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 NI-registered fishing vessels into NI
NI-registered vessels will only be required to meet pre-existing obligations, such as those contained within the fisheries control regulation, when landing into ports in NI until further notice. Further discussions in the UK-EU Joint Committee will continue to take place on a range of areas covered in this guidance.
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 NI to GB or NI to EU trade.
Containerised fish imports to UK
UK port health authorities will check imports of fish in containers coming into the UK, including fish moving from GB to NI.
If the fish you're importing or moving has been:
- stored: you must get a storage document from the exporter - validated by the authority in the country where it was stored
- processed: you must get an processing statement from the exporter - validated by the authority in the country of processing
Imports or movements of fish from:
- non-EU countries to UK must enter at a BCP
- EU countries to GB do not need to enter at a BCP until July 2021
- GB to NI must enter at a designated point of entry in NI
You must submit a catch certificate, processing statement and/or storage document where required, to the relevant port health authority before importing containerised fish:
- 72 hours in advance for imports by sea
- 4 hours in advance for imports by rail and air
- 2 hours in advance for road
Imports from the EU to NI will be subject to different requirements.
Moving fish from GB to NI
All fish, shellfish and their products being moved from GB to NI will need to:
- be pre-notified by the importer on TRACES NT in advance of arrival
- enter at a NI point of entry
- have an export health certificate (EHC)
- have a catch certificate and relevant IUU documents
Health certificates will need to be completed and signed by an appropriately qualified certifying officer. For fishery products, this can be a non-veterinary certifying officer, such as a food competent local authority Environmental Health Officer (EHO).
At the point of entry, all goods will be subject to documentary and ID checks and a small proportion of goods will be subject to physical checks.
While not SPS-specific, catch certificates are official documents that prove any marine-caught fish has been caught legally. These are issued by the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) and will need to be applied for and secured by the GB-based party. Traders can create a catch certificate online. Catch certificates checks will be conducted on a risk-led basis.
As with all movements of animal products, establishments will need to be approved in line with food hygiene regulations, either by the relevant local authority or by the Food Standards Agency (or Food Standards Scotland) depending on the nature of the production they are undertaking. Access more information on approved food establishments. These establishments will also need to be listed by the EU.
If you want to import endangered species of fish, follow guidance getting a permit to import endangered species.
You cannot import or move European eels from the EU or NI to GB. 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.
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.
Ornamental fish and shellfish and aquaculture
You must comply with guidance on customs requirements for importing fishery products into the UK.
First published 23 August 2019