Fish Health Background

Northern Ireland has a high fish health status due to natural factors such as its island location, temperate climate and low number of native species. Northern Ireland 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 it enjoys freedom from many of the transmissible diseases of salmonids.

The aquatic animal health regime and disease control measures in place are in compliance with Council Directive 2006/88/EC on animal health requirements for aquaculture animals and products thereof, and on the prevention and control of certain diseases in aquatic animals. 

This Directive sets firm rules to safeguard areas of proven health status, including import controls and disease containment measures.  The import of fish from areas of lower health status is also prohibited.  The Aquatic Animal Health Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009, as amended, transposes this Directive into Northern Ireland law. 

Aquaculture Production Businesses

For disease control purposes, all Aquaculture Production Businesses and processing establishments  must be authorised  under the Aquatic Animal Health Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009, as amended. In addition, all Put and Take and Non-Commercial Installations must be registered.

Controlling fish disease

DAERA is responsible for the control of fish disease in Northern Ireland under the Aquatic Animal Health Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2009, as amended

In carrying out these responsibilities, DAERA Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) undertakes a routine inspection and sampling programme of active aquaculture production businesses (APBs) in Northern Ireland.  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 in line with EU rules.

Where DAERA has reason to believe that any waters are infected with a notifiable disease, the Department 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.

Disease free status

Finfish diseases: Northern Ireland is currently recognised as free from the following non-exotic finfish diseases listed in Annex IV, Part II of 2006/88/EC: viral haemorrhagic septicaemia (VHS), infectious haematopoietic necrosis (IHN), koi herpesvirus (KHV) and infectious salmon anaemia (ISA).

Northern Ireland also has national controls for Gyrodactylus salaris (GS), spring viraemia of carp (SVC), and bacterial kidney disease (BKD), under Article 43 of 2006/88/EC. Northern Ireland is recognised as being free from these diseases.

Shellfish diseases: With the exception of Lough Foyle and Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland is free from the molluscan disease, Bonamia ostreae. Northern Ireland is recognised as free from Marteilia refringens, with the exception of Dundrum Bay and Belfast Lough.

The disease status of marine areas in which aquaculture products are harvested in Northern Ireland can be viewed at the following link:

The disease status is set out in Commission Decision 2009/177/EC  The approved national measures for limiting the impact and spread of certain diseases in aquaculture animals and wild aquatic animals, in accordance with Article 43(2) of Directive 2006/88/EC, is detailed in Commission Decision 2010/221/EC.


Queries about fish health should be directed to:

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