Import live fish and shellfish for aquaculture and ornamental

What you need to do to import live fish, molluscs and crustaceans for aquaculture and ornamental purposes

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Authorisation to import fish

You need authorisation from the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) to import live fish, molluscs and crustaceans for:

  • ornamental purposes
  • farming
  • human consumption
  • scientific research
  • ‘put and take’ fisheries (where catches can be taken home)
  • public aquariums and zoos
  • spas and medical use (nibble fish)

All sources must be approved by the FHI.

You can get an unlimited fine if you import fish or shellfish without authorisation.

Apply for authorisation to import live fish and shellfish into England and Wales. There’s no fee for applying.

Fish and shellfish for human consumption

There are extra rules for importing fish and shellfish for human consumption - read importing food and importing fishery products and molluscs.

Non-native species

There are extra rules for importing non-native species of fish, crayfish and lobsters.

Ornamental coldwater fish

You need to include a biosecurity measures plan outlining how you deal with fish health and disease if you import ornamental coldwater fish like koi.

Endangered species

You need a permit to import any species covered by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) list.

Health certificate

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
  • Jersey
  • Guernsey

Health certificates for imports from outside the EU

You need a health certificate issued by the country of origin for all fish, molluscs or crustacea imported from outside the EU (or from non-EFTA countries).

Health certificates are checked by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA) at a border inspection post. You may need to pay for this service.

You must send the Common Veterinary Entry Document (CVED) to APHA at least 2 days before the fish or shellfish arrive.

Problems with documentation

Species susceptible to controlled disease

You may be given a ‘Regulation 23’ notice if there are errors in the documentation for fish or shellfish susceptible to a controlled disease.

If the health risk to other fish is low, the fish or shellfish will be isolated at an APHA-approved site while the errors are corrected.

If the errors cannot 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

You may be given a ‘Regulation 16’ notice if there are errors in the documentation for fish or shellfish not susceptible to controlled disease. You will need to correct the errors but the fish do not need to be isolated.


Fish Health Inspectorate

Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)


Telephone: 03000 200 301

Find out about call charges

Published 16 May 2014
Last updated 23 September 2019 + show all updates
  1. Updated the title to reflect our remit of live fish and shellfish imports for aquaculture and ornamental purposes only and not the import of fish and fishery product. This is for clarity for our users in the aquaculture sector.
  2. Brexit update
  3. Removed all guidance on exports as this has been moved to a new detailed guide.
  4. Simplified the categories to be authorised to import.
  5. Added section on human consumption requirements
  6. First published.
  1. Step 1 Check if you need to follow this process

    There are several tasks you need to do before you can get goods through customs.

    1. Check the whole process for importing goods from countries outside the EU

    Most businesses that import goods hire a transporter or customs agent to make the import declaration and clear their goods through UK customs.

  2. Step 2 Set up your business for making customs declarations

    The business importing the goods and any transporter or customs agent acting on their behalf both need an EORI number.

    1. Get an EORI number

    You'll use the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system to make a declaration. You'll need to both:

    You can apply for simplified declaration procedures and for Authorised Economic Operator status. These are most suitable for businesses that import goods regularly.

    1. Find out about using simplified declaration procedures
    2. Check if Authorised Economic Operator status is right for you
  3. and Register to import goods with restrictions

  4. Step 3 Set up a duty deferment account if you import regularly

    Set up a duty deferment account if you want to be able to make one payment of customs duties a month instead of paying for individual shipments.

    You must set one up if you use simplified procedures.

    1. Set up a duty deferment account
  5. Step 4 Arrange for the goods to be inspected

    You need to choose a place where the goods can be inspected if you import things like plant or animal products. This needs to happen before they’re allowed through the UK border.

    1. Find an inspection point for animals and animal products
    2. Find an inspection point for plants, plant products, seeds and wood
    3. Find an inspection point for high risk food and feed that is not of animal origin
    4. Find an inspection point for endangered species, or products made from endangered plants or animals

    You need to let the inspection point know when the goods are arriving. You might have to pay a fee for the inspection.

    1. Find out what rules you need to follow to get the goods inspected
  6. Step 5 Submit the import declaration

  7. Step 6 Pay VAT and duty

    HMRC will tell you how much to pay after you submit the declaration.

    1. Find out how and when to pay VAT and duty
  8. Step 7 Get the goods released if they're held up at the border

    The goods will be held at the border, for example if:

    • you have not paid the right amount of duty or VAT
    • you do not have the right import licences for the goods or business
    • they did not pass inspection
    • they've been combined with a shipment that has been held up

    If this happens you will be told why.

    1. Contact the National Clearance Hub to get help