Environmental management – guidance

Introduce or keep non-native fish and shellfish

Apply for a licence to introduce, keep or farm non-native fish, lobsters and crayfish.

It’s an offence to introduce or keep controlled non-native fish or shellfish without a licence.

If you introduce or keep non-native fish or shellfish without a licence you could get a fine and a criminal record

When you need a licence

You need a licence to:

  • introduce non-native fish into inland waters
  • farm non-native species (or those not found locally)
  • keep or introduce controlled non-native species of:
    • freshwater fish
    • crayfish
    • lobsters

You also need permission to:

  • move fish from or to an inland water (fishery, rivers, canals, drains and stillwaters)
  • trap crayfish in the wild
  • import live fish and shellfish

You may need more than 1 licence or permission before you can introduce or keep the fish or shellfish.

All licences and permissions are free.

You may also need a permit to allow certain activities for species covered by the requirements of the EU Invasive Alien Species Regulation. You can apply for a permit to move or use these species.

Permit to introduce and keep non-native fish in inland waters

You must get a permit to introduce and keep non-native fish in inland waters (fisheries, canals, rivers, managed lakes, etc).

Authorisation to farm non-native fish and shellfish

To farm non-native fish or shellfish, or those not found locally, you need to get:

Licence to keep non-native freshwater fish (ILFA licence)

Get a licence to keep or introduce controlled non-native freshwater fish (not for farms or inland waters):

Application to keep or introduce non-native fish

When you don’t need an ILFA licence

You don’t need a licence to keep:

  • common carp (Cyprinus carpio)
  • goldfish (Carassius auratus)
  • ide or orfe (Leuciscus idus)
  • rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss, other than anadromous steelhead)

You don’t need a licence to keep the following species in ornamental wholesale and retail premises, indoor aquariums or garden ponds (discrete bodies of water no bigger than an acre, on private residential premises with no risk of fish escaping into the wild):

  • grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idella)
  • sturgeon (Acipenser and Huso)

You don’t need a licence to keep certain species in an indoor aquarium or if kept for ornamental (including trade, zoos and public aquariums), scientific research or conservation purposes.

Freshwater fish that can be kept for ornamental, scientific research or conservation purposes (MS Excel Spreadsheet, 49.5KB)

Licence to introduce or keep non-native crayfish

Get a licence to keep non-native crayfish (not for farms):

Application to keep or introduce non-native crayfish

You need a separate licence to trap crayfish.

When you don’t need a crayfish licence

You don’t need a licence to keep:

  • native or white clawed crayfish (Austropotamobius pallipes)
  • signal crayfish (Pacifastacus leniusculus) in areas recognised as having a large feral population (see list of areas on application form)
  • red-clawed crayfish (Cherax quadricarinatus) in indoor aquaria for ornamental use
  • non-native crayfish for human consumption (if kept securely)

You need a licence from Natural England to take white clawed crayfish.

Licence to introduce or keep non-native lobsters

Get a lobster deposit licence:

Application to keep or introduce non-native lobsters (lobster deposit licence)

You need a lobster deposit licence to keep or introduce the following types of lobster within 1 mile of tidal waters:

  • American or Canadian lobster (Homarus americanus)
  • European lobster (Homarus gammarus) (when kept with American or Canadian lobsters)

You need to apply at least 21 days before lobsters are delivered.

Permission to move fish to or from a fishery

If you want to introduce any fish or fish spawn into an inland water, you need a permit. To get this your fish may have to pass a health check.

Import live fish or shellfish

You need permission to import live fish and shellfish.

Contact

Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI)

Email: fhi@cefas.co.uk

Telephone: 01305 206 700

Monday to Friday, 9am to 5pm

Fax: 01305 206 602

Environment Agency

Email: enquiries@environment-agency.gov.uk

Telephone: 0370 850 6506

Monday to Friday, 8am to 6pm

Natural England

Email:enquiries@naturalengland.org.uk

Telephone: 0300 060 3900

Monday to Friday 8.30am to 5.30pm

Find out about call charges