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Illegal, unregulated and unreported fish

In addition to public and animal health controls, imports of wild origin fish and fish products from outside the European Union are subject to rules on Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Imports need to be accompanied by a validated catch certificate to prove the fish was legally sourced. More information about IUU controls over fish can be found on the Defra website and on the EU Commission website.

Imports of fishery products subject to controls to prevent illegal fishing

Imports of marine caught fishery products are controlled through a system of checks aimed at making sure that the fish was caught legally by fishing vessels that are properly managed by the country to which they are registered. In order to prove that an imported consignment is compliant with these rules it must be accompanied by a catch certificate issued by the government who manages the fishing vessel. The checking of catch certificates at the border is the responsibility of the Port Health Authority for containerised goods and the MCA for non-containerised goods.

Why is illegal fishing a problem and how do the checks help?

Illegal fishing has environmental, social and economic impacts. As well as direct impacts on the sustainability of fish stocks and efforts to manage fisheries as a sustainable resource, there are also indirect impacts on local fishermen and communities who are dependent on fish stocks for their own consumption and livelihood.

Import controls

Products subject to import checks

The Regulation applies to imports of marine caught fishery products that are covered by Chapter 03 of the Customs code as well as Chapter 16 04 and 05. Therefore freshwater and farmed (aquaculture) fish are all out of scope of the Regulation as are marine fish imported for ornamental purposes. There are some additional exclusions which are set out Commission Regulation 202/2011, which include clams and other bivalve molluscs. Shrimps and prawns as well as squid all require a catch certificate as does scampi (unless it is freshwater).

There are no other exemptions to the Regulations for imports of samples etc all imports need a certificate.

Composite products

Products made up of fish and other ingredients may be covered by the Regulation. If the composition is such that there is a fish content of over 50% then it will almost certainly come under the import rules. Where there is less than 50% but fish is the main ingredient i.e. it ‘characterises’ the product then this is also likely to require checks.

Import conditions

Products that fall under the scope of the Regulation can only be imported when accompanied by a catch certificate issued for the consignment by the country that manages the fishing vessel(s). If the import has come to the EU via another country (that is not the country where the vessel is registered) then some additional documentation will be required from this country detailing the information about the storage or processing of the fish.

Catch certificates

For processed fishery products arriving in a containerised form the catch certificate document is used more as an export document; in that it is generated as a consignment specific document at the time of export, rather than being used as a landing document and generated at the time the whole catch is discharged on the quayside. Catch certificates should therefore match the consignment shipped particularly in terms of the weight and description of the product. There is more information about this on the Defra website and some specific guidance about rules relating to consignment specific certification.

The catch certificate is established in Annex II of Regulation 1005/2008. (This is a model of the full certificate; however there are other alternative forms that are acceptable.)


A requirement of the legislation is that importers notify Port Health of the intended arrival of the consignment. Notification is by submission of the original catch certification documents. (If the original is not yet available a notification should still be made pending the receipt of the original)

Documentary check

All imports are subjected to a documentary check – an assessment of the catch certificate and accompanying commercial documentation, which may include bill of lading, invoice and packing list to ensure that the document relates to the consignment, is valid and authentic.

Identity and physical checks

There is no prescribed rate for the carrying out of Identity and physical checks under the Regulation, however, where there is any discrepancy between the certification submitted and any accompanying documentation an assessment of the product and packaging may be carried out


There is a charge for the checking of catch certification. The current charges can be found on our Grimsby and Immingham Port Health Charges webpage.

Satisfactory checks

On satisfactory completion of the IUU checks at the port, consignments may be released for free circulation into the Community. In order to secure the release of the consignment by HMRC the importer/ agent will need to submit a copy of the completed catch certificate OR a copy of the release fax as proof that the checks have been carried out.

Unsatisfactory checks

Where, following checks carried out on a catch certificate significant issues are found, this will result in either further investigations being carried out and clarifications sought or a legal notice served as a last resort which would mean either the products being re-exported or confiscated or destroyed.

Clearance of consignments not subject to checks

If your consignment is a fishery POAO but does not require a catch certificate you will also be sent a copy of the release fax stating that IUU checks are not required. This is in case your consignment has been identified by the HMRC CHIEF system as requiring IUU checks.

Guidance and further information

Defra are the lead department for IUU policy in the UK, they work in conjunction with the Marine and Management Organisation –MMO (an executive agency of Defra) who are responsible for the administration of controls over the UK fishing fleet and over landings of fish from fishing vessels. MMO also are responsible as act as the UK Single Liaison Office and will undertake checks with third country Governments where there are concerns about certification.

Contact details

Grimsby and Immingham Port Health, Port Health Offices, Fish Dock Road, Grimsby, North East Lincolnshire, DN31 3NN

Email: [email protected]

Telephone: 01472 326299

Opening times: By appointment only