Fish health checks: before moving fish into inland waters

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:

  • rivers
  • canals
  • 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

Species Fry Small Medium Large
Pike not applicable 46cm (18 inches) or less not applicable 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) not applicable 15cm (6 inches) or more

For special cases, contact the National Fisheries Laboratory.

Telephone: 0208 474 5244
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Find out about call charges

Group 1 fish species

These are:

  • 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.


Environment Agency
Fish movements team
Bromholme Lane
PE28 4NE

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

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

Telephone: 03708 506 506 (ask for your local fisheries officer) 
Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm
Find out about call charges

National Fisheries Laboratory

Telephone: 0208 474 5244
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm
Find out about call charges

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.

Darren Docherty
Glenalbyn Veterinary Services
01456 459 324

Ash Girdler
AGA Group
01953 886 824

Paul Grimsley
Esox Aquatic Services
07940 709 711

George Hide
Sparsholt College
01962 842 108 or 07981 274 980

Shaun Leonard
SR and RA Leonard
07974 861 908

Matthijs Metselaar
Aquatic Vets
07799 691 422

Paul Schroeder
PisceS Veterinary Services and Licensee Training
07503 453 302

Peter Scott
07836 217 686

Erika Trani
Pharmaq Analytiq
01463 717 774 or 07867 164 843

Ian Wellby
Blue Roof
01664 820 383 or 07800 632 419

Adrian Williams
01614 428 938

Updates to this page

Published 16 May 2014
Last updated 16 January 2024 + show all updates
  1. Updated the list of controlled fish pathogens. Added a list of accredited fish health consultants. Moved the fish size rules into the body of the webpage and removed the separate PDF. Revised guidance throughout to improve clarity to fish suppliers and fishery owners.

  2. Guidance revised throughout to provide greater clarity to fish suppliers and fishery owners.

  3. Telephone number for the Environment Agency fish health team changed to 0208 474 5244.

  4. Environment Agency fish movements team (authorisations) telephone number changed to 0208 474 5243.

  5. Updated because of new fish movement legislation

  6. First published.

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