Importing or moving fish to the UK from 1 January 2021
Last updated 16 September 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 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:
- vessel name
- catch species
- estimated weights
For fish that has been stored or processed you may also need the following documents, validated by the competent authority:
- processing statement filled in by the processor
- documents showing the fish was stored prior to export
Port health authorities in Great Britain (England, Scotland or Wales) or fisheries authorities in NI will check these documents for UK freight imports. Fisheries administrations are responsible for checking catch certificates for direct landings into the UK.
Moving fish from Northern Ireland to Great Britain
Most fish will need no new checks or requirements when moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, as they are considered to be qualifying Northern Ireland goods. The only exceptions are bluefin tuna and Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish.
All UK-registered vessels need to meet fisheries control regulation requirements.
Find out more about moving qualifying goods from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK.
If the fish was caught before 1 January 2021
It may not be possible to get a catch certificate for fish that a UK or EU Member State flagged vessel caught before 1 January 2021. You should check with your importing Port Health Authority what documents they’ll require for these products.
You may need other documents to prove that the fish was caught before 1 January 2021, such as:
- sales notes
- landing declarations
You’ll also need a processing statement if the fish has been either:
- processed in an EU country that is not the flag state of the vessel that caught the fish
- stored and processed in an EU country that is not the flag state of the vessel that caught the fish
You need a storage document if the product has been stored in an EU country that is not the flag state of the vessel that caught the fish.
All UK-registered vessels need to meet fisheries control regulation requirements.
Containerised fish imports to the UK
UK port health authorities will check imports of fish in containers coming into the UK, including fish moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
Imports or movements of fish from:
- non-EU/EEA/EFTA countries to the UK must enter at a border control post
- EU/EEA/EFTA countries to Great Britain do not need to enter at a border control post until July 2022
- Great Britain to Northern Ireland must enter at a designated point of entry in Northern Ireland
Before you import containerised fish, you must submit a catch certificate, processing statement or proof of storage where required, 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 road
If the fish you're importing or moving has been processed or stored in a country that is not the flag state of the catching vessel you must:
- if stored - get proof of storage from the exporter, validated by the authority in the country where it was stored
- if processed - get a processing statement from the exporter, validated by the authority in the country of processing
Imports of fish and shellfish to Great Britain must also be:
- pre-notified on IPAFFS
- accompanied by a health certificate issued by the country of origin
Health certificates need to be completed and signed by a 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.
Imports are also subject to customs formalities including the need to complete a customs import declaration and to pay any applicable duties and VAT.
Read more about making a full import declaration.
Imports from the EU to Northern Ireland will be subject to different requirements.
Moving fish from Great Britain to Northern Ireland
All fish, shellfish and their products being moved from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will need to:
- be pre-notified by the importer on TRACES NT in advance of arrival
- enter at a 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 (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
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 move products to Northern Ireland, these establishments also need to be listed by the EU. See the list of approved establishments for exporting POAO to the EU.
Imports from the EU
Imports to Great Britain from the EU, EEA and EFTA are subject to a phased approach under the Border Operating Model.
From 1 January 2021, importers of most fish and fishery products (as products of animal origin) from the EU need to ensure they:
- submit illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing documents to the port health authority in advance of the consignment’s arrival
- comply with customs requirements (such as submitting a customs import declaration and paying duties and VAT)
- check that you have correct documents if moving CITES goods, or goods subject to restrictions (such as bluefin tuna or Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish)
From 1 January 2022, you’ll need to pre-notify the import on IPAFFS.
From 1 July 2022, your consignment will need to:
- be accompanied by a certified health certificate
- enter at a point of entry with a border control post
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 HMRC guidance to understand the steps you need to take.
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 Northern Ireland) will also need to complete a:
You must wait for permission to land by UK fisheries authorities. Your vessel may be inspected when it lands.
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 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
- 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 illegal, unreported and unregulated (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 Northern Ireland) 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.
Vessels 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 Great Britain will also require:
- a captain's certificate signed by the captain who is authorised by their competent authority from July 2022
- the fish to be landed into a border control post approved for the landed fishery product from July 2022
Non-food approved registered vessels that land fresh fish directly into Great Britain at a NEAFC designated port will not need:
- a health certificate
- to pass through a border control post
They will still be subject to any normal official controls within the port.
Direct landings by GB-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 sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regulations
- provide a captain's certificate signed by the captain who is authorised by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (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 Northern Ireland
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 Northern Ireland 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 Northern Ireland to Great Britain or Northern Ireland to EU trade.
If you want to import endangered species of fish, follow guidance getting a permit to import endangered species.
Contact the APHA Centre for International Trade: Bristol for advice if you plan to import European eels.
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 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