Combatting Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing (IUU)
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.
Europe wide import controls, introduced by the EC in 2008 and retained in UK legislation from 1st January 2021, aim to cut out Europe and the UK as a market for illegal fish.
In order to prove that an imported consignment is compliant with regulations, it must be accompanied by a catch certificate issued by the government that manages the fishing vessel.
Checking catch certificates at the border is the responsibility of the Port Health Authority.
Port Health works with sea fisheries officers of the Marine and Management Organisation (MMO) and Defra (the overall policy holder) to ensure that controls are properly applied.
The Regulation applies to imports of marine caught fishery products. 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 including clams and other bivalve molluscs. However, shrimps and prawns as well as squid and cuttlefish all require a catch certificate as does scampi (unless it is freshwater).
There are no other exemptions to the Regulations.
Products made up of fish and other ingredients may be covered by the Regulation. If the product falls under CN Code 03, 1604 or 1605, a catch certificate will be required. This applies where there is any wild caught fish content. You may be asked to provide written confirmation from HMRC Tariff Classification team https://www.gov.uk/guidance/ask-hmrc-for-advice-on-classifying-your-goods of the commodity code for your goods.
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).
A list of countries who have notified their arrangements to issue catch certificates and are therefore permitted to export fish to the EU and the UK has been published.
If the import has come to the UK 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. Intermediate countries do not need to be approved to issue a catch certificate..
The import conditions apply to imports from all countries including imports from the EU, EEA and EFTA countries. Please see the gov.uk website for more details. If you are not sure if catch certificate documentation is required please contact the Port Health Authority responsible for the point of import. If a consignment does not require catch certification the importer will need to provide a written statement quoting the consignment details and explaining why a catch certificate is not required (e.g. the fish are farmed).
For processed fishery products arriving from the same country as the flag state of the vessel in a containerised form the catch certificate document is used more as an export document. 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.
Original catch certificates should therefore match the consignment shipped particularly in the weight and description of the product.
A requirement of the legislation is that importers notify Port Health of the intended arrival of the consignment at the following times:
* 72 hours in advance for imports by sea (containerised)
* 4 hours in advance for imports by road (trailers on the ferry)
Please note: these are minimum pre-notification times, and the Port Health Authority may require notifications sooner than these.
Notification is by submission of the original catch certification documents.
Alternatively, imports of marine caught fishery products can be pre-notified using a system called PHILIS DES via Login. Guidance on creating an IUU notification on DES is available under ‘Support’ within DES. This system can be used to upload all the catch certification documents and the commercial documents (bill of lading/CMR, packing list and invoice).
Original catch certification documents will still need to be submitted to Port Health.
Required when the country exporting the fish is the same as the country the catching vessel is flagged to (this may be a printed electronic version dependant on the country issuing the catch certificate e.g. Canada, Norway).
Required when the fishery product(s) are processed (before export) in a country that is not the same as the flag state of the catching vessel.
Required when the fish is stored (before export) in a country that is not the same as the flag state of the catching vessel and/or processing country.
All catch certificates submitted (original and copy) must have the Importer’s declaration section completed by the importer or their representative. As an alternative a Multiple Catch Certificate Summary Document can be downloaded, completed, signed and submitted with the catch certificate documentation.
Bills of lading/CMR, invoice and packing list
All imports are subjected to a documents check to ensure they relate to the consignment, are valid and authentic. More detailed checks may be carried out on a risk basis which might include checking the format of the document, assessing whether stamps and signatures match those of the Government that created it and checking catch areas and conservation management rules in place. Vessels will also be checked against the list of known IUU vessels.
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 checking catch certification. All charges must be paid before the consignment can be released for free circulation.
On satisfactory completion of the IUU checks at the port, consignments may be released for circulation into Great Britain. 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 IUU release document (issued by Port Health via email to the importer’s representative) as proof that the checks have been carried out.
Where, following checks carried out on a catch certificate significant issues are found that cannot be resolved, a legal notice will be served. If you feel that we have not followed the law in making this decision an appeal may be brought to a magistrates court. This right must be exercised within one month of the notice being served.
Products failing to satisfy import conditions may be re-exported to a country outside the UK (provided the receiving country competent authority is in agreement). If the consignment is deemed to have been fished illegally it could be confiscated or destroyed.
Where there are issues with the certification and it appears that these can be resolved, there is provision within the law that the consignment can be moved to a customs warehouse pending the resolution of any issues.
The ultimate responsibility for ensuring that consignments have been subject to checks before they are imported/released for free circulation lies with HMRC. The CHIEF system will check the CN code of imports to ensure that those within the scope of the regulation are held until confirmation is received from the trader that port health has carried out all the required checks. However, port health will also carry out checks on imports to ensure that certificates are submitted where required.
If your consignment is a fishery product of animal origin (POAO) but do not require a catch certificate this will be recorded on the CHED-P on IPAFF. This is in case your consignment has been identified by HMRC CHIEF system as requiring IUU checks.
Fishery products that do not need checks can be declared on the Customs entry using Document Code Y927 and the appropriate Document Status Code “XX” and Reference details i.e. GBIUUNOTREQUIRED in SAD box 44 (item level). Please refer to gov.uk for the most up-to-date advice on Customs entry declarations.
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.