When fishery owners and suppliers of live fish must get a fish health check. How to arrange the check and how to report the results.
Applies to England
When you need a fish health check
You must get a fish health check before moving fish into the following types of inland waters:
- lakes, ponds and reservoirs (stillwaters) with an inlet or an outlet to a river, canal or open water
- stillwaters within a floodplain which have a 1% chance of flooding in any year, or where there’s evidence of flooding - you can check an area’s long term flood risk
Getting a fish health check before moving fish will be a condition of your permit to supply live fish.
A health check involves an internal and external examination to look for pathogens and signs of disease.
A health check does not guarantee fish are free of pathogens or disease. But it greatly reduces the risk of introducing pathogens and disease into the environment.
You may be prosecuted if you do not get a health check before moving fish to a water that requires one.
Anyone buying or supplying fish should get their health checked before stocking, even if it’s not required by a permit condition.
Contact an approved consultant
You must use an approved fish health consultant to get a fish health check. They are listed at the end of this page.
Fish health checks are valid for:
- 12 months for farmed trout and salmon
- 6 months for all other fish species (including coarse fish and eels)
You can deliver the fish to the fish health consultant or use a courier. Some consultants may carry out the check at your fishery.
Select fish for a health check
If you must provide a health check, you must select a sample of fish that represent the fish you want to move.
You must keep to the following rules on the:
- overall sample size
- size categories and species included
Overall fish sample size
The health check must include an examination of at least:
- 30 fish in total
- 10 fish of each species that you intend to move
- 5 fish from each size category for each species you intend to move
If you only want to move fish in one size category, you can include fish from other size categories of the same species (except fry) to bring the number for that species up to 10.
Once you have included the minimum numbers of fish required for species and size category, the other fish in the sample can be any species and any size (except fry). All of the fish must be from the same source water.
Fish species and size categories
Fish size categories are based on:
- their life stage development (for example, there are different health risks for fry and adult fish)
- the effects of pathogens on different fish species
Fish species are grouped in the following way.
Table showing fish size categories by fork length
|46cm (18 inches) or less
|46cm (18 inches) or more
|Group 1 species
|5cm (2 inches) or less
|5 to 15cm (2 to 6 inches)
|15 to 25cm (6 to 10 inches)
|25 cm (10 inches) or more
|Group 2 species
|5cm (2 inches) or less
|5 to 15cm (2 to 6 inches)
|15cm (6 inches) or more
For special cases, contact the National Fisheries Laboratory.
Group 1 fish species
- common carp (Cyprinus carpio)
- tench (Tinca tinca)
- barbel (Barbus barbus)
- common bream (Abramis brama)
Group 1 is divided into small, medium and large size categories.
Group 2 fish species (all other species)
These include species such as:
- roach (Rutilus rutilus)
- rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus)
- silver bream (Blicca bjoerkna)
- brown trout (Salmo trutta)
- rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)
- salmon (Salmo salar)
- crucian carp (Carassius carassius)
- gudgeon (Gobio gobio)
Group 2 is only divided into small and large size categories.
Pike (Esox lucius) are in their own species group. They have a small and a large size category.
Fry (for all species excluding pike)
Fry (fish less than 5cm) are a separate size category. You cannot use fry as part of the 10 or more fish of that you need to examine for each species.
Ornamental and colour variants
Ornamental colour variants of fish species are treated as separate ‘species’. For example:
- ghost carp
- koi carp
- golden rudd
- golden tench
You must report these separately under the variant name. For example, list ‘golden rudd’ separately from ‘rudd’.
You must not move ornamental variants into rivers, canals, stillwaters in a floodplain or online stillwaters. But you can use them to make up the total number of fish required for a health check – for example, to make the sample up to 30. You cannot use them to make up the minimum 10 fish required for each species.
If you are planning to move hybrids of native species, then your sample will need to include either:
- 10 or more hybrids of those species
- 10 or more fish of each parent species
Send the fish health check results
You must send the health check results to the Environment Agency fish movements team. This is a condition of live fish supplier permits.
It’s important you understand the results and discuss any concerns with your consultant.
Fish movements team
Send your results by email or post.
Fish movements team
Telephone: 0208 474 5243
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm (answerphone outside these hours)
Find out about call charges
If the fish pass the health check
You can move the fish.
But you must comply with the other conditions in:
- your live fish supplier permit
- the relevant live fish movements site permit
If the fish fail the health check
You must check what you need to do next.
Fish will fail the health check if the examination finds:
- a category 2 pathogen
- a novel pathogen
If it’s for either of these reasons, you must contact the Environment Agency fish movements team by phone or email within 5 working days. You must tell them when you find a pathogen that has not been recorded in any of the waters covered by your permit.
Fish will also fail the health check if there’s any pathogen or disease in 20% or more of the fish. These fish could present a significant health risk.
You must go by the following rules if the fish fail a health check.
Category 2 pathogens
Category 2 pathogens are generally not native to fish in England and can cause serious problems in a fishery.
There are controls around what you can do if fish are:
- infected with category 2 pathogens
- from waters where category 2 pathogens have been found
You can only move these fish into:
- fully enclosed waters
- waters where it’s confirmed that the same pathogen is already in the water - your site permit will tell you this
You can check the health status of a water by contacting the Environment Agency’s fish movements team.
Category 2 pathogens are:
- Schyzocotyle acheilognathi (formerly Bothriocephalus acheilognathi)
- Monobothrium wageneri
- Ergasilus briani
- Ergasilus sieboldi
- Ergasilus gibbus
- Pomphorhynchus teretticolis
- Pomphorhynchus laevis
- Anguillicoloides crassus
- Anguillid herpesvirus-1 (AngHV-1)
Novel pathogens are generally not widespread and their impacts are unknown.
You must not move fish to any other inland water if they are:
- infected with novel pathogens
- from waters where novel pathogens have been found
The Environment Agency will refuse any applications to do this.
Novel pathogens are:
- carp edema virus (CEV)
- eel virus European X (EVEX)
- Lactococcosis due to Lactococcus garvieae
- Tracheliastes polycolpus
- Tracheliastes maculatus
- Lernaea cyprinacea
- Pellucidhaptor pricei
- Philometroides sanguineus
- Argulus mongolianus
The controls for CEV, AngHV-1 and Lactococcus garviae are based on confirmation of these pathogens during disease outbreaks. Health checks do not usually find these pathogens. But if they find signs of disease that indicate the pathogens, you need to do more investigation and diagnostic testing. You should contact the Environment Agency about this.
Contact the Environment Agency after a failed health check
Get advice from your local fisheries officer on what to do after a failed health check. They can explain the regulations covering fish movements.
The National Fisheries Laboratory can give you more information on health check procedures or findings. This can include information on category 2 and novel pathogens.
Area fisheries team
National Fisheries Laboratory
Health check consultants
These consultants can meet the requirements of the Keeping and Introduction of Fish (England and River Esk Catchment Area) Regulations 2015. Charges may vary.
Esox Aquatic Services
07940 709 711
01962 842 108 or 07981 274 980
SR and RA Leonard
07974 861 908
PisceS Veterinary Services and Licensee Training
07503 453 302