Live Aquaculture 2021 UK Guidance

Importing and exporting live aquatic animals from 1 January 2021

How importers and exporters of live aquatic animals for aquaculture and for ornamental purposes should prepare for changes from 1 January 2021.

New rules for January 2021

The UK has left the EU, and the transition period after Brexit comes to an end this year.

This page tells you what you’ll need to do from 1 January 2021. It will be updated if anything changes.

You can also read about the transition period.

Wales and England

This guidance applies only to live fish, molluscs and crustaceans imported or exported for aquaculture and ornamental purposes and includes live shellfish for purification (depuration) prior to consumption. It does not apply to dead fish and shellfish, fish and shellfish products, or live shellfish for immediate consumption.

Find out how to [export] and import wild-caught marine fish and fishery product for human consumption from 1 January 2021.

For information on live aquatic animal imports and exports to and from other UK territories and Crown Dependencies, contact:


Northern Ireland



Isle of Man

This guidance does not currently apply to UK businesses moving goods into, out of, or through Northern Ireland. Further information will be added to GOV.UK in the coming weeks. Find out more about moving goods into, out of, or through Northern Ireland from 1 January 2021.

Importing and Exporting – EU

Preparing for changes to trade at the UK-EU border

To minimise disruption to your business at the border points there are actions you will now need to take to prepare for the end of the transition period.

Import from an EU country

The UK has left the EU. There will be new processes that importers must follow. These processes will start in 3 stages.

1) From 1 January 2021:

The UK will operate a full, external border with the EU. This means that live aquatic animals imported from the EU will be subject to new import controls. They must be:

  • pre-notified by the importer using the UK’s new Import of Products, Animals, Food and Feed System IPAFFS for all imports of live fish, molluscs and shellfish and their eggs and gametes.
  • you must use IPAFFS to pre-notify at least one working day before your consignment is due to arrive.
  • accompanied by an export animal health certificate which meets UK standards for entry into England and Wales.
  • current requirements to be authorised to import by the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) will remain unchanged.

2) From 1 April 2021:

Further changes will be introduced for animal products and for high-risk food and feed not of animal origin.

Import controls on live animals, including live aquatic animals for aquaculture and ornamental purposes, will remain unchanged from those introduced on 1 January 2021 until 1 July 2021.

3) From 1 July 2021:

New import requirements will apply to live aquatic animals imported from the EU. They must be:

  • accompanied by an export animal health certificate so they can have documentary checks. UK model animal health certificates are under review and will be made available through the FHI on completion.
  • pre-notified by the importer using IPAFFS
  • entered through a Border Control Post (BCP) so they’re available for documentary, identity and physical checks.

Full list of UK BCPs

Import from a non-EU country

You’ll no longer have access to the EU’s import system TRACES (Trade Control and Expert System) from 1 January 2021.

You’ll need to use the UK’s new Import of Products, Animals, Food and Feed System (IPAFFS) for all imports of live fish, molluscs and shellfish and their eggs and gametes.

You must use IPAFFS to notify the UK BCP at least one working day before your consignment is due to arrive.

Export animal health certificates are required. Health certificates and other documentation are being reviewed and further guidance will follow. Contact FHI for the required document.

You must continue to import live animals into the UK through a UK border control post (BCP) formerly known as Border Inspection Posts (BIPs).

Export to an EU Country

From 1 January 2021, new export requirements will apply to live aquatic animals exported to the EU. You’ll need:

  • an export animal health certificate. Check with the Competent Authority or Official Service for Aquatic Animal Health in the destination country or via their embassy in the UK to find out what export animal health certificate is required.
  • contact the Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) at Cefas to apply for an Export Animal Health Certificate. Certificates must be signed by a Fish Health Inspector following an inspection of the consignment. You will need to give the FHI a minimum of 5 working days’ notice in advance of export to request a certificate and inspection.
  • to get your goods checked at a border control post (BCP), that can accept your type of goods in the first EU country they enter.
  • make sure your importer/ EU-based import agent has notified the BCP that your consignment is arriving – check with the BCP for how much notice needs to be given.
  • to comply with wider HMRC guidance on customs requirements for exporting to the EU.

Exporting live bivalve molluscs to the EU for depuration

If you are exporting live bivalve molluscs (LBMs) to the EU for depuration, please read the additional guidance:

  • following the end of the Transition Period on 1 January 2021, the UK will become an EU third country: there will be new processes that exporters and importers will have to comply with. With fewer than three months to go until the end of the Transition Period businesses need to prepare now for changes.
  • negotiations with the EU are ongoing, but in a non-negotiated outcome, all live aquatic animals and products of animal origin (including fish and shellfish) intended for export to the EU and destined for human consumption will require an export health certificate. When we become a third country, the legislation will no longer permit live bivalve molluscs (LBMs) to be landed by UK vessels into the EU. They must be exported to arrive via a Border Control Post (BCP).
  • LBMs that are ready for human consumption, i.e. from class A waters or depurated in the UK, can be exported to the EU using the export health certificate for LBMs. This will be the case from January 2021 onwards.
  • LBMs from Class B waters must be depurated before they are fit for human consumption. Those that are intended to go for depuration in the EU, must be accompanied by another specific Export Health Certificate: ‘Model animal health certificate for the import into the European Union of aquaculture animals for farming, relaying, put and take fisheries and open ornamental facilities’. This certificate is limited to LBMs sourced from aquaculture establishments (i.e. fish farms).
  • a new certificate is expected to come into force from 21 April 2021 for LBMs originating from the wild as well as those from aquaculture farms, subject to agreement by EU member states. It will be part of the new EU Animal Health Regulations.

If your consignment is rejected by the EU after exporting

If your consignment is rejected by the EU after exporting, you may have the option to bring the goods back. Live aquatics will only be accepted back to GB if they meet certain conditions.

If you did not supply the required certification at the time of the export

If animals have been presented at an EU Border Control Post without Cefas FHI certified documents, they will be classed as an illegal consignment and have no certifiable provenance. You will not be able to bring these animals back. These animals will be culled either at the EU Border Control Post or on attempted return to GB.

If the documents you supplied at the time of export contained errors contact the Cefas FHI

In some circumstances, it may be possible that a replacement certificate sent to the EU Border Control Post could reverse the decision to reject. The final decision will be taken by the EU Border Control Post whether this is acceptable.

GB will only accept the return of the animal consignment if the original Cefas FHI certified documents accompany the animals. You will need to coordinate the return of the animals by pre-notifying Cefas of the return before commencing the return journey.

On arrival at the GB port, Cefas FHI will undertake documentary, identity and physical checks to determine whether the animals are able to re-enter GB territory.

If your goods were rejected because they failed animal health or identity checks at the EU Border Control Post contact the Cefas FHI

Cefas FHI officials will advise you whether the animals may be accepted for return.

If your goods were rejected for other reasons, such as customs declaration issues

Contact HMRC or your customs intermediary for advice on whether the issues can be resolved.

If your animals need to return to GB, you will need to coordinate the return of the animals by pre-notifying Cefas FHI of the return by email or phone before commencing the return journey with the original documentation.

On arrival at the GB port, Cefas will undertake documentary, identity and physical checks on entry to determine whether the animals are able to enter GB territory.

Export to a non-EU country

There’s unlikely to be any change to the current export rules and processes for countries outside the EU. Make sure you check the existing guidance.

Border and customs offices

You must get your animals and animal products checked at an EU BCP, from 1 January 2021.

These checks are made to protect:

  • animal health and welfare
  • public health

Your goods may be refused entry, seized, destroyed or returned to the UK, if they arrive at:

  • an EU port without a BCP
  • BCP that can’t check your type of product

Find the correct BCP for your goods

You must find a BCP that can accept your type of goods – as not all BCPs accept all goods. Consider how to redirect your trade route if needed.

There are more than 400 BCPs in the EU and they’re usually at EU ports and airports. Check the main list of BCPs. There have been 8 extra BCPs added in early October 2019.

All EU BCPs require advance notice of goods arriving. Check with the BCP you’re planning to use for how much notice is needed.

Contact your importer or agent in the EU to make sure they notify the BCP through TRACES of the arrival of the consignment. They must do this within the time limits set out by the BCP.

What happens if your goods fail inspection at a BCP?

If your goods fail inspection because of risks to animal or public health, they will be destroyed immediately. The BCP will not usually contact the exporter directly.

Importing or exporting CITES specimens

Additional rules apply to endangered species under CITES. Find out how to trade and move species protected by CITES from 1 January 2021.

Data protection

You’ll need to make sure your business follows data protection law.

If you operate across the EU or exchange personal data with organisations in the EEA, there may be changes that you need to make before the UK leaves the EU. Read the guidance on data protection during and after the transition period.

You can also check if you can use standard contractual clauses for transfers from the EEA to the EU.


Fish Health Inspectorate
Cefas Barrack road

Monday to Thursday 9am to 5pm and Fridays 9am til 4:30pm
01305 206700

Published 25 February 2019
Last updated 8 October 2020