A Quick Guide to Importing or Moving Fish to the UK for Human Consumption


To import the majority of foreign fish into the United Kingdom, a valid catch certificate must be obtained from the country’s competent authorities where the fishing vessel is registered or licenced.

The format of catch certificates will vary according to the exporting country that issued them. Still, they will all require certain information such as vessel information, species, commodity code, and weight.

If your fish was processed or kept in a country other than the one in which your fishing vessel is registered or licenced, you will also require one or both of the following documents:

  • A processing statement endorsed by the competent authority in the country where the fish was processed
  • Evidence of storage issued by the competent authority in the country where the fish was stored.

These documents (including the catch certificate) aid in the fight against illicit, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU). 

Typically, they are referred to as IUU documents.

Port health authorities will charge a fee for IUU document review. 

Due to the fact that each authority determines its own prices based on its own costs, these fees will differ. British port health authorities will inspect freight imports into the United Kingdom.


Freight imports of fish to the UK

The port health officials of the United Kingdom will inspect all fish imports, including those from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.

Before importing fish shipments, you are obliged to submit a catch certificate, processing statement, or proof of storage, as applicable, to the port health authority.

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

Imports from non-EU countries

Imports of fish and shellfish from non-EU nations to the United Kingdom must also be: pre-notified on the import of products, animals, food and feed system (IPAFFS); accompanied by a health certificate provided by the country of origin; and pre-approved by the British government.

An authorised certifying officer must complete and sign health certificates. For fishery products, this can be a non-vet certifying officer with the necessary qualifications.

All items will be subject to document and identification checks at entry, with a small percentage also subject to physical inspections. Imports are also subject to customs requirements, such as completing a customs import declaration and paying all necessary duties and taxes.

Imports from the EU, EEA and EFTA countries

Imports into the United Kingdom from the European Union, the European Economic Area, and the European Free Trade Association are subject to a phased process outlined in the Border Operating Model.

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

  • Submit IUU fishing documentation to the port health authorities before the shipment’s arrival.
  • 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 January 1, 2022, you must submit an import notification in IPAFFS for imports from all EU countries except the Republic of Ireland.

From July 1 2022, your consignment will need to enter via a point of entry with a border control post able to handle fish.

From November 1 2022, your consignment will need to be physically accompanied by an export health certificate. You must upload a copy of the health certificate to IPAFFS.

Direct landings by foreign fishing vessels in the UK

Even if landing fish caught beyond the North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission convention area, all foreign fishing vessels must land in a North-East Atlantic Fisheries Commission (NEAFC)-designated port.

In accordance with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Port State Measures Agreement, foreign vessels capturing fish outside of this area will be subject to IUU checks at the same ports (PSMA).

Foreign vessels that capture fish inside the NEAFC convention area and dock immediately in the United Kingdom are required to submit a NEAFC Port State Control form (PSC1) before landing.

In addition to submitting a prior notification form, a pre-landing declaration, and a capture certificate, foreign vessels must also submit a prior notification form.

UK fisheries officials must grant the authority to land. Your ship could be inspected upon landing.

Countries you cannot import from

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

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