Import or export live fish and shellfish
- Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs and Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science
- Part of:
- Aquatic animal health and movements guides
- First published:
- 16 May 2014
- Last updated:
- 16 April 2015, see all updates
- Applies to:
- England and Wales
What you need to do to import or export live fish, molluscs and crustaceans (shellfish): authorisation and health certificates.
To import live fish, molluscs and crustaceans (shellfish) you need to be authorised by the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI). You may also need a health certificate for the fish or shellfish to show they are disease free.
If you import fish or shellfish without authorisation you can get an unlimited fine.
Authorisation to import fish
To import fish or shellfish you need to be authorised by FHI.
This is free.
You need to be authorised to import live fish and shellfish for:
- ornamental purposes
- human consumption
- scientific research
- ‘put and take’ fisheries (where catches can be taken home)
- public aquariums and zoos
- spas and medical use (nibble fish)
Fish and shellfish for human consumption
There are additional rules for non-native species of fish, crayfish and lobsters.
Ornamental coldwater fish
If you import ornamental coldwater fish like koi, you need to include a biosecurity measures plan outlining how you deal with fish health and disease.
Importer biosecurity measures plan (PDF, 193KB, 36 pages)
You need a permit to import any species covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITIES) list.
Health certificate for imports from the EU
You need a health certificate to import fish, molluscs or crustacea from the EU or European Free Trade Association (EFTA) member countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) if they:
- are at risk of controlled diseases (serious diseases not usually found in the UK)
- carry controlled diseases
You must notify the FHI at least 24 hours before importing fish and shellfish and must fill in a form for each import.
You also need a health certificate from the country of origin for imports from:
- the Isle of Man
- Northern Ireland
Health certificates for imports from outside the EU
All fish, molluscs or crustacea you import from outside the EU (or from non-EFTA countries) need to have a health certificate issued by the country of origin.
Health certificates are examined by Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA) at a border inspection post. You may need to pay for this service.
You must submit the Common veterinary entry document (CVED) (PDF, 66.7KB, 1 page) to AHVLA at least 2 days before the fish or shellfish arrive.
Problems with documentation
Species susceptible to controlled disease
If there are errors on the documentation for fish or shellfish susceptible to a controlled disease you may be given a ‘Regulation 23’ notice. If the health risk to other fish is low, the fish or shellfish can enter the country while errors are corrected.
To prevent the introduction or spread of disease, these fish or shellfish must be isolated at an approved site. AHVLA will have a list of these and will work with the importer. The site must have separate equipment and procedures and stock must stay there until the error is corrected and the notice is released.
If the errors can’t be corrected FHI may test the consignment for disease. This requires a minimum of 30 animals and the test results can take up to 3 weeks.
Species not susceptible to controlled disease
If there are errors and the fish or shellfish aren’t susceptible to controlled disease you may be given a ‘Regulation 16’ notice.
This means errors need to be corrected but the fish don’t need to be isolated.
Health certificate to export fish to the EU and EFTA member countries
Depending on the proposed use of the animals at destination you may need a health certificate if the species you wish to export are:
- at risk of EU controlled diseases
- carriers of EU controlled diseases
- or the destination has recognised status with regard to the controlled disease.
While the UK has no export requirements we will assist exporters with meeting the import requirements of the destination territory where appropriate.
You or your customer must obtain details of import requirements either from the destination country’s embassy or competent authority for fish or shellfish. It is important that you comply with these.
If the destination country requires an EU Health Certificate, and/or a TRACES notification obtain details of the certificate and the destination’s disease status. You need to apply to the FHI using the Notification to export fish to the EU form along with the advice received regarding the destination’s requirements. This is a free service but you need to give 5 working days’ notice to allow for an inspection and/ or paperwork to be arranged.
General advice on exporting is available from the FHI.
Health certificate to export fish outside the EU
If you’re exporting fish or shellfish to outside the EU you need to check requirements with the relevant country’s embassy or their competent authority for fish/shellfish, for details of their import requirements. You must comply with these.
If the destination requires documentation you should first obtain all information and copies from their authorities. If you then require government assistance, please contact the FHI.
Fish Health Inspectorate
Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm 01305 206700
Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency (AHVLA)
Telephone: 01245 358 383
Find out about call charges
Published: 16 May 2014
Updated: 16 April 2015
- Simplified the categories to be authorised to import.
- Added section on human consumption requirements
- First published.