Fish health and fish health inspections

Northern Ireland (NI) has a high fish health status due to natural factors such as its island location, temperate climate and low number of native species. NI also has a history of strict controls on imports and enforcement of fish health legislative controls designed to prevent the introduction and spread of fish disease. Consequently, NI has disease-free status for a number of notifiable aquatic diseases.

Regulation (EU) 2016/429, known as the Animal Health Law, came into force on 21 April 2021, replacing Council Directive 2006/88/EC, in respect of aquatic health. This Regulation lays down rules for the prevention and control of animal diseases which are transmissible to animals or humans and covers the following key areas:

  • Disease notification, reporting, surveillance, eradication programmes, disease freedom.
  • Disease awareness, preparedness, control.
  • Registration, approval, traceability and movements.
  • Movements into the EU.

Aquaculture operators and establishments currently authorised or registered under Council Directive 2006/88/EC are automatically deemed to be approved or registered under the Animal Health Law. Such operators and establishments are therefore subject to the relevant obligations of this new Regulation.

All general enquiries should be made by contacting the Aquaculture & Fish Health Inspectorate:


Registration and Approval of Aquaculture Establishments

All aquaculture establishments must be either registered or approved by DAERA before activities commence.

In addition, under the Fisheries Act (NI) 1966 as amended, all fish farms in Northern Ireland are required to be licensed and hold a valid fish culture licence.


Any fisheries stocked with aquaculture animals for angling purposes only (in effect, put and take fisheries) and other low risk aquaculture establishments e.g. aquaculture establishments keeping aquaculture animals for ornamental purposes in closed facilities must be registered with DAERA. These are examples only and you should contact the Department to seek advice on registration requirements.


Aquaculture establishments that must be approved will normally include the following:

  • finfish farms;
  • shellfish farms;
  • crustacean farms;
  • shellfish dispatch centres;
  • shellfish purification centres;
  • establishments processing aquaculture animals for disease control purposes;
  • premises holding ornamental aquatic animals with direct contact with natural waters; and
  • any other establishments holding aquaculture animals other than those which are required to be registered.

Click here for thePublic Register of Authorised Aquaculture Production Businesses.

Biosecurity Plan

A biosecurity plan must be submitted with all applications for approval. DAERA has produced a template to provide some guidelines on the issues that need to be addressed in the documented biosecurity plan for your aquaculture establishment. The template can be found at Biosecurity Measure Plan Checklist.

Further information on biosecurity plans can be obtained by contacting the Fish Health Inspectorate:
Tel: 028 4461 8089

Applications for registration or approval

Regulation (EU) 2016/429 (The Animal Health Law) requires operators of all Aquaculture Establishments to be registered or approved with the Competent Authority (DAERA) before they commence activities. Detailed Guidance for completing the application forms is also provided.

If you are not clear as to whether your establishment is required to be approved or registered, you should seek advice from the Fish Health Inspectorate at or at 028 44 618089.

Applications should be made to DAERA by completing the appropriate form below and forwarding it, and the necessary supporting documentation, to DAERA.

Fish Health Inspections

DAERA is responsible for the enforcement of the aquatic animal health regime in Northern Ireland. This includes registration and approval of aquaculture establishments; statutory inspection, sampling and testing programmes of fish, shellfish and crustacean farms; investigation of disease outbreaks in wild and traded fish, shellfish and crustacean stocks; enforcement of statutory disease controls; and implementation of controls on the import and export of live fish, shellfish and crustaceans.

In carrying out these responsibilities, DAERA Fish Health Inspectorate(FHI) undertake routine inspections and sampling programmes of active aquaculture establishments. DAERA FHI also carry out routine sampling of wild fish stocks; inspect live fish and shellfish destined for import into, and export from, Northern Ireland; and issue movement documentation.

Where DAERA has reason to believe that any waters are infected with a notifiable disease, it has powers to take certain measures to prevent, control and eradicate the disease. These powers extend to both wild fishery and marine and inland fish farms in Northern Ireland.

An aquaculture approval will normally require the operator to ensure the aquaculture establishment is open for inspection to an officer of DAERA at all reasonable times and to provide DAERA with such samples of fish as are required, free of charge.

Inspection Procedure

An inspection of an aquaculture establishment may include the following:

  • monitoring the fish stocks on the farm for fish health purposes;
  • ensuring compliance with the regulations;
  • ensuring good fish husbandry and welfare practices are in operation at the establishment;
  • ensuring effective bio-security measures are in place on the establishment;
  • ensuring compliance with Regulations governing the disposal of fish waste;
  • inspection of records required to be held by the operator;
  • verification of information on fish movements provided to DAERA.

Useful links

Back to top