Guidance

Importing animal furs and skins - export of fish

The prohibitions and restrictions on the import of animal furs and skins into the UK and the export of salmon and trout.

Introduction

The fur and skin of endangered animals or fish, or goods made from them, such as jewellery, shoes, bags and belts are banned for trade import into the UK unless you have a valid permit. The furs of animals caught in leg-hold traps are also prohibited for import into the UK unless accompanied by either certification that confirms origination in an approved-source country, or a valid import/export permit issued for endangered species which may also be accepted as certification.

Commercial imports of baby harp seal and hooded seal skins are prohibited. There is also a ban on the placing on the market of any type of product made from seals and other pinnipeds - such as sea-lions and walruses (with limited exceptions - see below). Imports and exports of cat and dog fur - as well as any products made from such fur - are also banned.

This guide provides detailed information about the prohibitions and restrictions concerning the import of animal furs and skins into the UK and the export of salmon and trout. It will also explain what documentation is required if such products are to be allowed to pass through UK customs.

The roles of government departments in regulating animal fur and skins imports and salmon and trout exports

Several UK government departments work to ensure that animal fur and animal skins are imported and salmon and trout are exported legally.

UK Border Agency (UKBA)

UKBA aims to ensure all imports of furs and fur skin products are imported legally.

Department for the Environment, Fisheries and Rural Affairs (Defra)

Defra has policy responsibility for controls on furs and fur and skin products and for policy implementation.

Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Northern Ireland (DARDNI)

DARDNI has policy responsibility for controls on furs and fur and skin products and for policy implementation in Northern Ireland.

Import controls on furs and products from animals caught in leg-hold traps

Council Regulation (EEC) No 3254/91 prohibits the importation of furs and fur products from some wild animal species originating in countries where they are caught by leg-hold traps or trapping methods that do not meet international standards of humane trapping.

The control covers 13 species of fur-bearing animals and applies to their raw fur and products made from it. It does not apply to animals born and bred in captivity. The controlled species are:

EU animal fur prohibitions

Common name Latin name
Badger Taxidea taxus
Beaver Castor canadensis
Bobcat Felis rufus or Lynx rufus
Coyote Canis latrans
Ermine Mustela erminea
Fisher Martes pennanti
Lynx Lynx canadensis
Marten Martes americana
Musk rat Ondatra zibethecus
Raccoon Procyon lotor
Otter Lutra canadensis or Lontra canadensis
Sable Martes zibellina
Wolf Canis lupus

Strict rules are in also place in the European Union to ensure that animals kept for fur production are kept, trapped and slaughtered humanely. Special recommendations cover requirements for mink, ferret, foxes and chinchilla, amongst others.

Check trade restrictions on animals and plants using the Trade Information Query Tool on the CITES website.

Commodity codes for controlled furs

All controlled furs and fur products are assigned a commodity code, which should be quoted to HM Revenue & Customs when importing and exporting:

Controlled fur products commodity codes

Commodity code Product of species
4103 9000 Raw hides and skins
4301 4000 Raw beaver skins
4301 5000 Raw musk rat skins
4301 8050 Raw skins of wild felines
4301 8090 Other raw fur skins
4301 9000 Raw heads, tails, paws and other pieces or cuttings
4302 1910 Tanned or dressed beaver skins, not assembled
4302 1920 Tanned or dressed musk rat skins, not assembled
4302 1970 Tanned or dressed skins of wild felines, not assembled
4302 1995 Other tanned or dressed skins, not assembled
4302 2000 Tanned or dressed heads, tails, paws and other pieces or cuttings, not assembled
4302 3010 ‘Dropped’ fur skins
4302 3035 Tanned or dressed beaver skins and pieces or cuttings thereof, assembled
4302 3041 Tanned or dressed muskrat skins and pieces or cuttings thereof, assembled
4302 3071 Tanned or dressed skins of wild felines and pieces or cuttings thereof, assembled
4302 3075 Other tanned or dressed skins and pieces and cuttings thereof, assembled
4303 1090 Articles of apparel and clothing accessories of fur skin
4303 9000 Other articles of fur skin

Animal fur goods that are exempt from UK import controls

Categories of goods excluded from the controls include:

  • finished goods for personal and private use only
  • finished goods covered by a procedure for temporary admission and not for sale in the EU but intended for re-export
  • pelts and goods manufactured in the EU and being reintroduced into the EU following a processing procedure - proof must be given that they were processed from pelts or goods previously exported from the EU

Controlled animal furs may be allowed to transit through the UK without import controls, provided they are destined for another country.

Countries from which furs and fur products can be imported legally

Controlled species can only be imported legally from certain countries:

Permitted animal fur imports by country

Approved country of origin Species that may be imported Latin name
Belize Raccoon Procyon lotor
Bulgaria Wolf Canis lupus
Canada Coyote Canis latrans
  Wolf Canis lupus
  Beaver Castor canadensis
  Bobcat Felis rufus (also called Lynx rufus
  Otter Lutra canadensis (also called Lontra canadensis)
  Lynx Lynx canadensis
  Marten Martes americana
  Fisher Martes pennanti
  Ermine Mustela erminea
  Musk rat Ondatra zibethicus
  Raccoon Procyon lotor
  Badger Taxidea taxus
Czech Republic Wolf Canis lupus
  Ermine Mustela erminea
  Musk rat Ondatra zibethicus
El Salvador Raccoon Procyon lotor
Greenland Wolf Canis lupus
Hungary Ermine Mustela erminea
  Musk rat Ondatra zibethicus
Jordan Wolf Canis lupus
Lebanon Wolf Canis lupus
Mexico Wolf Canis lupus
  Coyote Canis latrans
  Beaver Castor canadensis
  Bobcat Felis rufus (also called Lynx rufus)
  Musk rat Ondatra zibethicus
  Raccoon Procyon lotor
  Badger Taxidea taxus
Moldova Wolf Canis lupus
  Ermine Mustela erminea
Nicaragua Raccoon Procyon lotor
Norway Wolf Canis lupus
  Ermine Mustela erminea
  Musk rat Ondatra zibethicus
Pakistan Wolf Canis lupus
  Ermine Mustela erminea
Panama Raccoon Procyon lotor
People’s Republic of China Wolf Canis lupus
  Sable Martes zibellina
  Ermine Mustela erminea
  Musk rat Ondatra zibethicus
Poland Wolf Canis lupus
  Sable Martes zibellina
  Ermine Mustela erminea
  Musk rat Ondatra zibethicus
Republic of Korea Sable Martes zibellina
  Wolf Canis lupus
Republic of Slovenia Wolf Canis lupus
  Musk rat Ondatra zibethicus
Romania Wolf Canis lupus
Russian Federation Wolf Canis lupus
  Sable Martes zibellina
  Ermine Mustela erminea
  Musk rat Ondatra zibethicus
  Raccoon Procyon lotor
Slovak Republic Wolf Canis lupus
  Sable Martes zibellina
  Ermine Mustela erminea
Turkey Wolf Canis lupus
USA Coyote Canis latrans
  Wolf Canis lupus
  Beaver Castor canadensis
  Bobcat Felis rufus (also called Lynx rufus)
  Otter Lutra canadensis (also called Lontra canadensis)
  Lynx Lynx canadensis
  Marten Martes americana
  Fisher Martes pennanti
  Ermine Mustela erminea
  Musk rat Ondatra zibethicus
  Raccoon Procyon lotor
  Badger Taxidea taxus

Although it isn’t an approved country of origin, Costa Rica is permitted to issue re-export certification for furs from the listed species that have originated in one of the approved countries.

Certification from Costa Rica must clearly identify both the approved-source country and the species of animal from which the furs originated.

Directive 98/58/EC is in place in the European Union to ensure that animals bred for their fur are treated humanely. The rules include housing, freedom of movement, feeding and watering requirements, and staff qualifications. Directive 93/119/EC seeks to minimize the pain and suffering of animals during slaughter through the use of proper, approved stunning and killing methods. Furs without acceptable certification should be detained.

Check trade restrictions on animals and plants using the Trade Information Query Tool on the CITES website.

Skin, fur and other animal products which may not be commercially imported

Some skin and fur products may never be legally imported into the UK for commercial use.

Skins from harp and hooded seal pups

Commercial imports of baby harp seal and hooded seal skins - and items made from such skins - are prohibited.

Under EU regulations, the placing on the market of all seal products is banned with limited exceptions. ‘Seal products’ means all products, either processed or unprocessed, deriving or obtained from seals, including meat, oil, blubber, organs, raw fur skins and fur skins, tanned or dressed, including fur skins assembled in plates, crosses and similar forms, and articles made from fur skins. The ban also applies to imports that are declared for free circulation in the EU and intra-community trade.

You are also not permitted to trade in new products manufactured from existing stock of seal skin. Trade (including hire) in seal products first placed on the market before 20 August 2010 is not affected.

The EU regulations prohibit placing on the market products from seals and other pinnipeds (sea lions and walruses for example) unless:

  • they result from traditional hunts conducted by Inuit and other indigenous communities that contribute to their subsistence - that are not conducted primarily for commercial purposes and are conducted in a manner which has due regard to animal welfare
  • are for personal use of travellers and their families and are of a non-commercial quantity

Where a consignment of seal products is being imported for release to free circulation and the Inuit exemption applies, a seal catch attestation certificate is required to accompany the goods. The attestation certificate should be endorsed by the relevant certifying authorities in the country of origin.

For more information, see EU ban on the import and placing on the market of seal products (CIP1).

Cat and dog fur and products containing such fur

Commission Regulation 1523/2207 bans the import, export and placing on the market of cat and dog fur, as well as products made from such sources.

The prohibition covers:

  • Felis silvestris (cat)
  • Canis lupus familiaris (dog)

Exporting fresh, frozen and smoked salmon and trout

All fresh, frozen and smoked salmon and fresh and frozen trout caught in Great Britain must be pre-entered at export on the Single Administrative Document (SAD) Form C88, which must include a declaration of legal capture by the exporter.

In England and Wales, the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries Act 1975 forbids export of salmon or trout which are ‘unclean’ - ie they have recently spawned and not yet recovered from spawning - or those caught outside the commercial fishing season.

In Scotland, section 22 of the Salmon Fisheries (Scotland) Act 1868 provides that salmon caught between 15 September and 4 February, except for those reared on fish farms, may not be exported.

Section 2(1) of the Trout (Scotland) Act 1933 forbids the export of trout measuring less than 8 inches long or any trout caught outside the commercial fishing season.

Any person presenting prohibited salmon or trout for export is subject to penalties or summary conviction.

There are no legal prohibitions on exporting salmon or trout from Northern Ireland.

Published 8 August 2012
Last updated 5 April 2018 + show all updates
  1. Amended to take into account changes to the EU seal products regime.
  2. First published.