Guidance

Importing or moving fish to the UK

How to import or move fish for human consumption to the UK.

This guidance explains how to import or move fish for human consumption to the UK.

You should follow guidance on importing live fish and shellfish if you’re importing live fish, molluscs and crustaceans not for direct human consumption.

Import documents

To import most fish to the UK from another country (excluding EU fish into Northern Ireland), you’ll need to get a validated catch certificate from the competent authority of the country where the fishing vessel is registered or licensed.

The format of catch certificates will vary depending on which exporting country produced them, but they will all ask for specific information such as:

  • vessel details
  • species and commodity code
  • weight

If your fish has been processed or stored in a country other than where the fishing vessel is registered or licensed, you’ll also need the following documents - they’ll need to be endorsed or issued by the competent authority in that country:

  • processing statement
  • documents showing the fish was stored before export

These documents help combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing. UK freight imports will be checked by port health authorities in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) or fisheries authorities in Northern Ireland.

Port health authorities must charge a fee for checking IUU documents. These fees will vary because each authority sets their own rates depending on their costs.

Fisheries administrations are responsible for checking catch certificates for direct landings into the UK.

Moving fish from Northern Ireland to Great Britain

Most fish will need no new checks or requirements when moving from Northern Ireland to Great Britain, as they are considered to be qualifying Northern Ireland goods. The only exceptions are bluefin tuna and Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish.

All UK-registered vessels need to meet fisheries control regulation requirements.

Find out more about moving qualifying goods from Northern Ireland to the rest of the UK.

If the fish was caught before 1 January 2021

It may not be possible to get a catch certificate for fish that a UK or EU Member State flagged vessel caught before 1 January 2021. You should check with your importing port health authority what documents they’ll require for these products.

You may need other documents to prove that the fish was caught before 1 January 2021, such as:

  • invoices
  • sales notes
  • landing declarations

You’ll also need a processing statement if the fish has been either:

  • processed in an EU country that is not the flag state of the vessel that caught the fish
  • stored and processed in an EU country that is not the flag state of the vessel that caught the fish

You need a storage document if the product has been stored in an EU country that is not the flag state of the vessel that caught the fish.

Freight imports of fish to the UK

UK port health authorities will check freight imports of fish coming into the UK, including fish moving from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Imports or movements of fish from:

  • non-EU, EEA or EFTA countries to the UK must enter at a border control post
  • EU, EEA or EFTA countries to Great Britain must enter at a border control post from 1 July 2022
  • Great Britain to Northern Ireland must enter at a designated point of entry in Northern Ireland

Before you import consignments of fish, you must submit a catch certificate, processing statement or proof of storage where required, to the relevant port health authority at the following times:

  • 72 hours in advance for imports by sea
  • 4 hours in advance for imports by rail and air
  • 2 hours in advance for imports by road

If the fish you’re importing or moving has been processed or stored in a country that is not the flag state of the catching vessel you must:

  • if processed - get a processing statement from the exporter, endorsed by the authority in the country of processing
  • if stored - get proof of storage from the exporter, issued by the authority in the country where it was stored

Imports of fish and shellfish from non-EU countries to Great Britain must also be:

Health certificates need to be completed and signed by a qualified certifying officer. For fishery products, this can be a non-veterinary certifying officer, such as a food competent local authority Environmental Health Officer (EHO).

At the point of entry, all goods will be subject to documentary and ID checks, and a small proportion of goods will be subject to physical checks.

Imports are also subject to customs formalities including the need to complete a customs import declaration and to pay any applicable duties and VAT.

Read more about making a full import declaration.

Imports from the EU to Northern Ireland will be subject to different requirements.

Moving fish from Great Britain to Northern Ireland

All fish, shellfish and their products being moved from Great Britain to Northern Ireland will need to:

  • be pre-notified by the importer on TRACES NT in advance of arrival
  • enter at an appropriately designated Northern Ireland point of entry
  • have an export health certificate (EHC)
  • where relevant, have appropriate illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) documents including a validated catch certificate, processing statement or proof of storage

Traders can create IUU documents through the online Fish Export Service.

Approved food establishments

Establishments that handle, prepare or produce products of animal origin (POAO) need to be approved in line with food hygiene regulations. Approval can be granted either by the relevant local authority, or by the Food Standards Agency (or Food Standards Scotland), depending on the nature of the production.

These establishments include those that work with fishery products, such as:

  • factory, freezing and reefer vessels
  • processing plants
  • auction halls
  • wholesale markets

See the list of UK approved establishments, and find out how to apply to become one, at the FSA’s approved food establishments page.

To export to the EU, or move products to Northern Ireland, these establishments also need to be listed by the EU. See the list of approved establishments for exporting POAO to the EU.

Imports from the EU

Imports to Great Britain from the EU, EEA and EFTA are subject to a phased approach under the Border Operating Model.

From 1 January 2021, importers of most fish and fishery products (as products of animal origin) from the EU need to:

  • submit IUU fishing documents to the Port Health Authority before the consignment arrives
  • comply with customs requirements (such as submitting a customs import declaration and paying duties and VAT)
  • check that you have correct documents if moving CITES-listed goods, or goods subject to restrictions (such as bluefin tuna or Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish)

From 1 January 2022, you’ll need to pre-notify the import on IPAFFS.

From 1 July 2022, your consignment will need to:

  • be accompanied by a certified health certificate
  • enter at a point of entry with a border control post

Comply with Rules of Origin for tariff-free trade

To trade with the EU without paying tariffs, all goods need to comply with the preferential Rules of Origin. You need to be able to prove the origin of goods, according to the Product Specific Rules in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement. Read HMRC guidance to understand the steps you need to take.

Direct landings by foreign fishing vessels into the UK

All foreign fishing vessels landing catch directly into the UK must land into a North East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC) designated port, even if landing fish caught outside of the NEAFC convention area.

Foreign vessels catching fish outside of this area will be subject to IUU checks at the same ports, for purposes of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Port State Measures Agreement (PSMA).

Foreign vessels that catch fish inside the NEAFC convention area and directly land into the UK must submit a NEAFC Port State Control form (PSC1) before landing.

Foreign vessels (except for EU vessels landing into Northern Ireland) will also need to complete a:

  • prior notification form
  • pre-landing declaration
  • catch certificate

You must wait for permission to land by UK fisheries authorities. Your vessel may be inspected when it lands.

Prior notification form

Foreign vessels landing into the UK (except for EU vessels landing into Northern Ireland) will need to complete a prior notification form and email it to the designated UK port before landing.

It will need to be sent for:

  • frozen fish, at least 72 hours before landing
  • fresh fish, at least 4 hours before landing
  • a mix of fresh and frozen fish, at least 4 hours before landing

Foreign vessels landing into the UK (except for EU vessels landing into Northern Ireland) with fishery products that are exempt from IUU fishing regulations, will need to complete an exempt fisheries products prior notification form.

Pre-landing declaration

Foreign vessels landing into the UK (except for EU vessels landing into Northern Ireland) will need to fill in a pre-landing declaration and email it to the designated UK port at least 4 hours before landing. This form should be available from your competent authority.

Vessels will need to give details of the consignment, including the:

  • area fished
  • quantity of fish by species on board the vessel

Special requirements for EU food-approved fishing vessels

Food-approved freezer, reefer or factory vessels that land frozen or processed fish directly into Great Britain will also require:

  • a captain’s certificate signed by the captain who is authorised by their competent authority (from July 2022)
  • the fish to be landed into a port and presented to a border control post approved for the landed fishery product (from July 2022)

Non-food approved fishing vessels landing fresh fish directly into NEAFC designated port in Great Britain will not need:

They will still be subject to any normal official controls within the port.

Fresh fish may have undergone primary processing at sea, such as de-heading or gutting.

Direct landings by Great Britain-flagged fishing vessels into Northern Ireland

UK-flagged vessels with their port of registration in England, Wales or Scotland landing fresh fishery products (or fish that has undergone primary production such as de-heading) directly into ports in Northern Ireland will need to:

  • land into a port designated in line with IUU fishing regulations
  • submit a prior notification form and a pre-landing declaration 4 hours in advance of landing taking place
  • send a complete and validated catch certificate to the competent authority in Northern Ireland (if applicable to the species of fish being landed)

Direct landings (either the vessel or the catch) may be given risk-based checks at the designated port where they land.

There is a separate process for freezer, factory or reefer vessels landing fish that has undergone secondary processing (for example, freezing or wrapping). These vessels will need to:

  • enter via a designated point of entry in line with sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) regulations
  • provide a captain’s certificate signed by the captain who is authorised by the Animal and Plant Health Agency (APHA)

The vessels will need to be approved in line with food hygiene regulations by the relevant local authority and listed by the EU.

Direct landings by Northern Ireland-registered fishing vessels into Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland-registered vessels will only be required to meet pre-existing obligations, such as those contained within the fisheries Control Regulation, when landing into ports in Northern Ireland until further notice. Further discussions in the UK-EU Joint Committee will continue to take place on a range of areas covered in this guidance.

Re-exporting fish imported from a third country

If you import fish with a catch certificate and then re-export to the EU, you will need to complete the re-export section of the catch certificate. This does not apply to Northern Ireland to Great Britain or Northern Ireland to EU trade.

Countries you cannot import from

You cannot import fish caught by vessels with flags from Comoros, Cambodia or Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. This is because these countries have not been cooperative in taking action against illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Endangered fish and shellfish

If you want to import endangered species of fish, follow guidance about getting a permit to import endangered species.

Eels

Contact the APHA Centre for International Trade: Bristol for advice if you plan to import European eels.

Bluefin tuna and Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish

Direct landings, imports and exports of Bluefin tuna or Antarctic and Patagonian toothfish into and from the UK (except for movements between Northern Ireland and the EU) will require validated catch documents. These must be submitted to the importing competent authority or relevant fisheries administration, to allow checks to take place.

The movement of these species between Great Britain and Northern Ireland, in both directions, will also require the submission of these catch documents.

Ornamental fish and shellfish and aquaculture

See guidance on rules you must follow to import live fish or shellfish for ornamental or aquaculture purposes.

Customs requirements

You must comply with HMRC guidance on customs requirements for importing fishery products into the UK.

Published 31 December 2020
Last updated 14 September 2021 + show all updates
  1. Updated with new dates for the introduction of controls on imports of fish.

  2. Amended text in 'Approved food establishments' section under 'Moving fish from Great Britain to Northern Ireland' to provide clarity on how to apply for food hygiene approvals.

  3. Added new guidance on the documents required to import fish that were caught before 1 January 2021 – see the 'If the fish was caught before 1 January 2021' section.

  4. Updated Moving fish from Great Britain to Northern Ireland section to clarify information about appropriate IUU documents needed. Added link to border operating model guidance.

  5. Updated documents you need to upload to IPAFFS for imports from the EU from 1 October 2021.

  6. Updated with new dates for when you’ll need to pre-notify imports from the EU and for when they need to enter Great Britain through a Border Control Post (BCP).

  7. Updated eels section. Contact APHA for advice if you plan to import European eels.

  8. The page has been updated to include a summary of the phased approach that applies to imports from countries in the EU, EEA and EFTA. A section has been added to link to the HMRC guidance on the preferential Rules of Origin.

  9. First published.