Guidance

Exporting or moving fish from the UK

How to export or move fish for human consumption from the UK.

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

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

To export fish from the UK to the EU and the 8 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:

  • Northern Ireland to the EU
  • Northern Ireland to Great Britain

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 Great Britain to the EU or moving it to Northern Ireland

To export fish from Great Britain 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 Great Britain to an EU BCP or Northern Ireland point of entry

You’ll need to send all consignments of fish and fishery products through an EU BCP or Northern Ireland point of entry with approved facilities if the fish was:

  • caught by a UK flagged vessel
  • imported into Great Britain and processed or stored
  • landed anywhere except the EU or Northern Ireland

BCPs in the EU

There are more than 400 BCPs in the EU and they’re usually at EU ports. Check the full list of EU BCPs.

Your EU importer must notify the BCP or point of entry in Northern Ireland in advance of your arrival. Notification periods vary. Check with the BCP or point of entry 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.

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 Competent Authority in the EU Member State 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:

  • invoices
  • sales notes
  • landing declarations

You’ll need either a processing statement or storage document to accompany the consignment if the fish was both:

  • caught by an EU Member State flagged vessel before 1 January 2021
  • processed or stored in the UK

You can find these documents on the UK’s Fish Export Service. Enter ‘pre-2021 fish’ into the catch certificate reference box.

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:

  • Great Britain to Northern Ireland
  • Great Britain to the EU
  • the UK to the rest of the world (excluding movements from Northern Ireland to the EU)

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

  • details about the catching vessel including vessel name, port letter and number (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 Great Britain but not processed

If you’re exporting from Great Britain to the EU, or moving fish from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, any fish sourced from another country that has been stored in Great Britain 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 Great Britain

If you’re exporting from Great Britain to the EU, or moving fish from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, any fish sourced from another country that has been processed in Great Britain, 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:

  • 72 hours before landing for exports by sea
  • 4 hours before arriving for exports by air and rail
  • 2 hours before arriving for exports by road

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 Great Britain to the EU
  • movements of fish and shellfish (alive, dead and farmed fish) from Great Britain 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 certifying 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 Northern Ireland, 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.

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.

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 HMRC guidance to understand the steps you need to take.

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 Northern Ireland.

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 Northern Ireland 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 Great Britain that land frozen or processed fish directly into the EU or Northern Ireland 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 point of entry in Northern Ireland 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 EHC
  • 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 Northern Ireland (‘NI-registered vessels’) landing their catch in Northern Ireland 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 Great Britain from the EU

If your consignment of fish is rejected at an EU BCP, you may be able to return the goods to Great Britain. 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 Great Britain if they meet certain conditions.

Your fish may not be able to re-enter Great Britain 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 Great Britain, 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

Contact the APHA Centre for International Trade: Bristol for advice if you plan to export 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 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 Northern Ireland businesses moving goods from Northern Ireland to Great Britain where there is a specific international obligation binding on the UK, the movement of these species between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, 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 Great Britain to the EU of fish caught by a UK flagged fishing vessel
  • exports from Great Britain 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

Published 31 December 2020
Last updated 11 June 2021 + show all updates
  1. Amended text in 'Get an export health certificate' section to provide clarity on how to apply for food hygiene approvals.

  2. New content added that explains how exporters can use logistics hubs to export or move their goods to the EU and Northern Ireland.

  3. Added new guidance on the documents required to export fish that were caught before 1 January 2021 – see the 'If the fish was caught before 1 January 2021' section.

  4. Updated eels section. Contact APHA for advice if you plan to export European eels.

  5. To trade with the EU without paying tariffs all goods need to comply with the preferential Rules of Origin. A section has been added to link to the HMRC guidance.

  6. Clarified that catch certificates are required for exports to certain non-EU countries as well as all EU states and Northern Ireland

  7. Storage Document & Processing Document link updates

  8. First published.