Brexit - seafood imports — Seafish guidance

I import seafood to Great Britain

Information and guidance on importing seafood from the EU to the UK from 1 January 2021 including labelling, customs and tariffs and documentation.

Published: Wednesday 4 November 2020

Content updated: Friday 28 October 2022


1. How can I avoid delays at the border?

Most delays at the border can be avoided by obtaining the necessary authorisations and providing properly completed documents at the right time. It is important to liaise with your overseas counterpart so that the exporter understands the documentary requirements.

Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) status gives quicker access to some customs procedures and, in some cases, the right to ‘fast-track’ your shipments through certain customs procedures. There is guidance on achieving AEO status on the HMRC website.

2. How will GB border requirements change?

Importing from outside the EU into Great Britain

There will be minimal change to current veterinary controls and requirements for notifications for seafood, including live seafood, imported directly from countries outside the EU.

  • The new import pre-notification system, called the Import of Products, Animals, Food and Feed System (IPAFFS), which has replaced TRACES, is already in use for seafood imports from outside the EU.
  • GB health certificates are required for all seafood imports arriving in Great Britain from non-EU countries. You can see the model GB health certificate in the UK Government collection of health certificates. ‘EU style' health certificates accompanying goods to GB and arriving after 30 September 2021 will be accepted if they are dated up to and including 30 September 2021.
  • The catch certification requirement is already in place and remains unchanged.

Importing from EU and EFTA member states into Great Britain

The sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) requirements of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland are harmonised with the EU. The requirements described below for health certification, pre-notification and other SPS elements that apply to seafood arriving from the EU also apply to seafood arriving from these four countries.

Catch certification

A validated catch certificate and any supporting documents are required for most consignments of wild-caught seafood imported from the EU or elsewhere. Catch certification is also required for most fish and fishery products landed directly into Great Britain by non-UK flagged vessels.

If the fish you’re importing into Great Britain was originally caught by a vessel flagged to a country other than the exporting country, you will need the following documentation:

  • An original catch certificate;
  • If it has been stored for more than 12 hours, you’ll need a copy of the catch certificate and a storage document from the exporter; or
  • If it has been processed, you’ll need a copy of the catch certificate and a processing statement from the exporter – this must be filled in by the processor and endorsed by the authority in the country of processing.

To ensure efficient clearance of your consignment, you should provide the catch certificate to the port of entry in advance of your consignment’s arrival. If this isn’t possible, you should check with your port of entry. Some ports may agree to complete the checks if you provide them with electronic catch certificate documents, provided that hard copies of the documents follow.

If your product is listed in Annex I of the IUU Regulation, it is exempt from the catch certificate requirement. You should ensure that the accompanying commercial documents contain information to support your claim that no catch certificate is required, such as documentary evidence that the product is of aquaculture origin.

Non-UK vessels, including EU vessels, intending to land their catch in the UK will need to follow the same rules that apply to UK-registered vessels accessing an EU port. For example, they’ll need to give notice of their plans to land. Fish must be landed in a designated UK port. EU vessels fishing in the NEAFC Convention Area and landing into the UK need to complete a Port State Control form.

There are new import requirements for imports of seafood from non-EU countries that arrive in GB via an EU country. They are described below in question '4. Has importing from outside the EU via the EU changed?'

SPS requirements

As with non-EU imports, imports of seafood from the EU must be pre-notified using IPAFFS. The IPAFFS data input requirements are lower for EU imports than for non-EU imports. The pre-notification must be completed at least 4 hours in advance of the seafood arriving into GB. An export health certificate is not currently required to accompany seafood intended for importation from the EU into GB (except for certain composite products). New health certification requirements are expected to be announced in the autumn of 2022 and implemented towards the end of 2023. The new requirements will apply equally to EU and non-EU seafood. There is currently no requirement for seafood from the EU to enter GB through a Border Control Post (BCP).

3.What checks take place at the GB border?

Checks on seafood imported directly from non-EU countries, and payment for the checks, have remained largely unchanged. Checks on non-EU seafood are carried out at the BCP and are documentary, identity and physical checks. There are no SPS checks on goods arriving from the EU. These are expected to be introduced towards the end of 2023.

The Port Health Authority at the BCP charges the importer (or the ‘person responsible for the consignment’) a standard fee. If the consignment requires further checks, for example if a non-EU consignment is subject to intensified official controls, the importer will face additional charges.

4. Has importing from outside the EU via the EU changed? 

Yes, there are new requirements for imports of seafood from non-EU countries that move through the EU before arriving in Great Britain.

Seafood that is cleared for free circulation in the EU (and Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland) and subsequently imported into the UK will be treated as an import from the EU.

Seafood intended to transit through the EU must enter the EU territory via a Border Control Post (BCP). Each consignment will need a Common Health Entry Document (CHED) (generated by the exporter on TRACES NT) and will be subject to documentary and identity checks. If there is any suspicion of non-compliance with the EU’s requirements on animal health or food safety, it may undergo a physical check.

The consignment must be directly transported under customs supervision, without the goods being unloaded or split. It must leave the EU via the BCP named in the CHED and it must reach this BCP within 15 days.

The officers at the exit BCP will carry out an identity check to ensure that the consignment corresponds to the consignment referred to in the CHED. In particular, they verify that the seals fixed on the vehicles or transport containers are intact. The outcome of the controls is recorded in Part III of the CHED and in the EU’s Information Management System for Official Controls (IMSOC).

The seafood will then have to be presented to a GB BCP that is approved to handle the category of seafood you intend to import. Importers will need to:

  • notify the UK authorities using the pre-notification system (Import of Products, Animals, Food and Feed System, IPAFFS),
  • ensure that an export health certificate accompanies the shipment, and
  • provide catch certification where necessary.

5. Has importing live animals for aquaculture changed? 

See ‘I catch or farm seafood' guide.

6. Have controls on wooden packaging changed? 

Yes. All wood packaging material (WPM) entering Great Britain may be subject to controls to check if it meets ISPM15 international standards. The standards apply to solid wood packaging such as pallets, packing cases, boxes, crates and dunnage (loose wood used to protect goods and their packaging). They don’t apply to processed woods like plywood, raw wood less than 6mm thick, cardboard or certain other packaging.

Checks on WPM will continue to be carried out in Great Britain on a risk-targeted basis only. The plant health risk from WPM imported from the EU and Northern Ireland is considered low.

If the packaging fails an inspection and you’re given the option to treat it, you can either:

  • find a company authorised to carry out treatment to ISPM15 standards
  • send the wood packaging back to the supplier


7. What labelling should I have on the consignment?

The consignment presented for import will need to display clearly a legible and indelible identification mark (‘health mark’). The mark must indicate the approval number of the establishment and the country of origin. Inspectors should be able to see the mark without having to break the packaging.

8. Do imported products have to be labelled differently?

The EU labelling Regulations has been rolled over into national legislation. For seafood originating in an EU member state, ‘EU’ can continue to be used as a country of origin. All pre-packed food imported into Great Britain needs to be labelled with the name and UK address of the business operator under whose name the food is marketed, as this is the business operator responsible for the product regardless of the actual producer.  An EU address alone would no longer be valid for the UK market. There is a grace period: you can continue to use an EU, GB or NI address for product sold in GB until 30 September 2022.

More detail can be found in the government guidance on ‘Food labelling: giving food information to consumers’.

Customs and Tariffs

An explanation of new customs, tariffs and VAT rules for businesses moving seafood to Great Britain from the EU can be found on our page below. 

Trade Policy

9. What is the status of EEA trade agreements?

Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland trade with the EU under a free trade agreement.

The UK Government has concluded trade agreements with the Faroes, Liechtenstein and Switzerland as well as some other non-EU countries. This allows imports from these countries to continue to enjoy preferential tariffs. Continuity trade agreements with Iceland and Norway have also been agreed. View the latest information on signed trade agreements.

Note that the rules of origin that have been written into these trade agreements do not offer the same flexibility in terms of cumulation that was available previously. Processing Norwegian fish in the EU, for example, may result in a tariff being payable on import into the UK.

10. Do the EU free trade agreements still work for UK imports?

No, the UK is no longer a party in these agreements. The UK has made separate arrangements with several trading partners to ensure that trade continues under similar conditions following a no-deal exit. UK businesses should refer to government guidance in ‘Existing trade agreements with non-EU countries’ for the latest developments.

Some of the EU’s free trade agreements have not been replicated. If there is no other preferential agreement, imports from these countries can continue on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms using ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN) tariffs as detailed in the UK Global Tariff

11. Is there mutual recognition of EU goods?

No, foods in the European Economic Area (EEA) that are compliant with EU requirements are not automatically recognised as compliant with UK requirements.

Content Updates

Monday 24 October 2022

  • Webpage link to Seafood import customs, tariffs and VAT added to Customs and Tariffs' section 

Thursday 5 May 2022

  • Answer to question 2 updated, SPS requirements added
  • Question 3 and answer updated

December 2021
Thursday 9 December

  • Amendment to answers in questions 2, 3 and 13.

September 2021
Wednesday 15 September

  • Amendment to answers in questions 2 and 3

March 2021
Tuesday 16 March

  • Amendment to answers in questions 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12
  • Added new question and answer; question 13
  • Amended order of questions, question 13 onwards