Fisheries - IUU regulations and Catch Certificates

Technical Notices on Preparing for EU Exit from the GOV.UK website:

​​​​​​​What is a catch certificate?

A catch certificate confirms that fish have been caught legally under the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) regulation. It ensures that we do not have illegally caught fish entering the UK supply chain. Each catch certificate includes information on where and when fishing took place, what and how much was caught and by which vessel.

Why do I need one?

The Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) regulation states that only fish products accompanied by a validated catch certificate can enter the EU. Currently, as a Member State, the UK does not have to issue catch certificates for EU trade. Catch certificates are required for trade between Member States and some third countries.

Once the UK leaves the EU and becomes a third country, we will continue to cooperate globally and fully support the objectives to prevent, deter and eliminate IUU fishing. If we leave the EU without a deal, catch certificates will be required for all imports and exports of UK caught fish and fishery products exported to and from the EU.

When do I require a catch certificate?

After the UK leaves the EU, a catch certificate and other IUU documentation will be required to accompany fish intended for human consumption, in particular, if you:

  • export fish to the EU and certain non-EU countries
  • import fish into the UK from the EU, and non-EU countries
  • export fish that is caught by a UK fishing vessel to the EU, and non-EU country (for example, for processing) to then re-import back into the UK or into the EU.

A catch certificate is required to export to the following non-EU countries (both now and after the UK leaves the EU): Iceland, Ivory Coast, Kuwait, Madagascar, Norway, Thailand, Tunisia, and Ukraine.

You don’t need a catch certificate if you’re exporting to a country that isn’t in the EU or isn’t a country listed above, unless the fish are to return back to the UK or the EU.

Which authority validates the catch certificate?

The catch certificate or other IUU documentation is completed by the exporter and validated by the competent authority in the country where the fishing vessel is registered, also known as the flag state. Currently (export) catch certificates are issued by the UK Catch Certificate Centre (UKCCC), and out of hours by the UK Fisheries Call Centre (UKFCC).

Once validated, the exporter then sends the certificate to the importer who fills in their relevant sections and then presents to the importing country’s competent authority to check. In the UK, after we leave the EU, the Marine Management Organisation (in collaboration with Marine Scotland) is responsible for issuing export catch certificates.

UK Port Health Authorities have been designated as the competent authorities for checking catch certificates in relation to imports of fish and fishery products into the UK by container ship, air, road or rail. Catch certificates and other IUU documentation for imports of fish and fishery products landed in the UK by fishing vessels or reefer vessels are checked by the UK Fisheries Administrations. 

Will all seafood exports to the EU be required to have a catch certificate?

You don’t need an export catch certificate if you are exporting any of the following:

  • farmed fish and farmed shellfish
  • freshwater fish or freshwater shellfish
  • fish fry or larvae
  • some molluscs (including mussels, cockles, oysters, and scallops)

A full list of exemptions is available in Annex I of the Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008, available here:                                        

Although you won’t need a catch certificate when exporting molluscs (mussels, cockles, oysters, and scallops), you will need a live shellfish registration document. This process will not change.

If I am a fisherman and land fish directly into an EU port, am I still required to complete a (export) catch certificate?

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, UK registered fishing vessels will no longer have an automatic right to land fish into any EU port. UK fishing vessels may only land fish into a port which is designated under the IUU regulations. The same will apply to vessels wishing to access port services or carryout transshipments.

The UK fishing authorities are in the process of building an IT system to process and issue catch certificates and user testing is underway. In parallel we continue to develop manual contingencies to ensure we have solutions in place for 12 April if required. Exporters will receive further information about how to obtain the correct documentation in the coming weeks.

 For every landing, you will need to:

  • obtain a catch certificate validated by the UK authorities and submitted to the landing authorities, prior to arriving at port.
  • pre-notify EU landing ports of your arrival at least 72 hours before landing
  • submit a landing declaration 4 hours before landing.
  • submit an NEAFC Port State Control forms 24 hours before landing.

Why are you telling me this now?

In the event that the UK leaves the EU on 12 April 2019 without an implementation period, catch certificates will need to be used to trade fish and fish products with the EU. Exporters therefore need time to become familiar with the new requirements and the impacts on their business.

The guidance published on (4 Feb) is designed to help businesses understand what they need to do to prepare for a No Deal scenario. Further information about the process for completing these documents will be available in the coming weeks.

When will I have more information?

This guidance published on 4 February 2019 outlines what documents businesses will need to import and export fish to the EU in a No Deal scenario.  Further information will be available in the coming weeks and the government will write to businesses affected with clear instructions for how to obtain the correct documentation.

Will I be able to export fish from day one?

If all the requirements to export the goods are met then you should be able to export fish from day 1 (12 April). To export to non-EU countries, the requirements will remain the same as they are now.

In a technical notice published on the 10 January the government said the UK fishing authorities are developing an IT system to deal with the increase in export catch certificates. Will this system be ready in time for Day 1?

The UK fishing authorities are developing a new IT system to process and issue export catch certificates and additional IUU documentation electronically. We are confident this system will be ready in time for Day 1 and detailed user testing is underway. In parallel we continue to develop manual contingencies to ensure we have solutions in place for 12 April if required. Exporters will receive further information about how to obtain the correct documentation in the coming weeks.

How many catch certificates are you expecting to process?

It is expected that the UK will be treated as a third country once we leave the EU, and so we estimate that the number of export catch certificates will increase from approximately 300 to over 100,000 per year and the number of import catch certificates will double to over 70,000 (from 37,000).

Won’t this place a massive pressure on the current catch certificate system? What do you anticipate the increase in demand would be? Are you prepared to deal with this?

Currently (export) catch certificates are issued by the UK Catch Certificate Centre (UKCCC), and out of hours by the UK Fisheries Call Centre (UKFCC). We expect a significant increase in the need to produce and process catch certificates for fish and fishery products being exported from the UK to the EU, including for direct landings of UK registered fishing vessels into EU ports. We are developing a digital solution to help handle the expected increase in catch certificates efficiently.

Import catch certificates for containerised fish are checked by the Port Health Authorities and queries are sent to the UK Single Liaison Office (UKSLO). The Marine Management Organisation and the devolved administrations catch certificates for direct landings of non-UK registered fishing vessels. We expect an increase in the number of import catch certificates once we leave the EU if EU member states are required to provide them for their imports into the UK. The Import certificates process would remain paper based and is not part of the digital solution for catch required for UK exports.

Do you have sufficient resource to check all the catch certificates and other IUU documentation?

We have assessed the future demand for catch certificates and other IUU documents if we leave without a deal and are developing a team, system and processes to manage the increase.

Would this process slow down my ability to trade with the EU?

No, providing the relevant IUU documentation is obtained before the vessel or consignment arrives into port. This is to allow the relevant authority’s time to perform the necessary checks on their content. It is the exporter’s responsibility to ensure that the information submitted any IUU documentation is correct or it would not be validated and issued for export to the EU.

Will it lead to delays at the border?

Trade should not be affected provided that all IUU documents are correct and submitted in time for the relevant checks to be done prior to import. All non-EU countries (including those in the EEA) that export fish and fisheries products to the EU have to complete catch certificates and do so without it causing delays to their trade flows.

What will happen if my consignment doesn’t have a catch certificate when it reaches the border?

It may be refused or detained pending submission of the correct documentation.

How many people will need to apply for a catch certificate and other supporting documents?

All businesses and fishermen that export fish and fishery products to the EU will need to obtain the relevant IUU documents.

How long will it take to issue a catch certificate and other IUU documentation?

As the catch certificate is electronic (including the validation) and assuming the information submitted is correct, the catch certificate will be issued once the exporter has finished inputting the information and submitted it.    

The time it takes to obtain the relevant documents will vary depending on the complexity of what is being exported. The government is developing an IT system which is designed to ensure exporters can access the right documents within a matter of hours to enable a seamless trade in fish with the EU.

 Why isn’t the catch certificate linked to the elog as they both require the same information? Can the elog be used as a replacement?

Catch certificates require the exact weight of the catch, whereas the elog does not. This means the elog cannot be used as a replacement.

Is the need for catch certificates consistent across all Devolved Administrations?

Yes. The need for catch certificates is consistent across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

The process for obtaining a catch certificate and other relevant documents

How do I complete a catch certificate?

A catch certificate is issued by the flag state. In the UK, a new IT system is being developed to process and issue export catch certificates and other supporting documents. UK exporters will need to register on the system in order to complete an export catch certificate and any supporting documents. Instructions on how to register for the system and to complete an export catch certificate will be available in the coming weeks.

 Am I able to electronically sign the catch certificate and send it directly to the EU Border Inspection Post?

Yes. The completed catch certificate is then emailed by the exporter. A catch certificate is the legal responsibility of the exporter who is then required to forward to the relevant port for import.

How many commodity codes are there?

See the HMRC website https://www.gov.uk/trade-tariff

What do I do with a catch certificate or IUU documentation?

The UK Fishing Authorities are developing a digital system for users to apply for an export catch certificate. Exporters will receive further information about how to obtain the correct documentation in the coming weeks.

UK companies importing fish products from the EU will receive a catch certificate from the original flag state. The catch certificates received for imports will vary in template as they will be generated by individual EU member states and non-EU countries. The catch certificate must be given to the Port Health Authority (PHA) where the fish is transported to for checking.

Will a catch certificate be required for each consignment or each vessel? Can multiple species be included for each certificate?

A catch certificate will be required for each consignment. The online export catch certification process will also allow users to input details of consignments sourced from one or more UK vessels leaving the UK for a country that requires catch certificates.

Multiple species can be included for each catch certificate. Each species will need to be recorded on the certificate, along with its commodity code.

Do I need a catch certificate if my product is going to another country before the EU?

Yes - if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, EU Member States will require a catch certificate to prove that UK caught fish has been caught legally. The catch certificate would need to accompany the consignment going to another country before it is exported to the EU.

What do I do if I don’t know the final destination of the product?

A catch certificate should only be completed when the catch is due for export, or when landed directly in a country that requires them. Once an exporter knows they will be exporting to a country that requires a catch certificate, they will be able to apply for one. If fish products are exported to a third country for processing, and then return to the EU as a final product, a catch certificate is still needed.

Whose responsibility is it to transmit catch certificates onward to the EU once UK caught fish is exported to another country before the EU?

It is the responsibility of the exporter in the other country to transmit the catch certificate on to the EU. The other country may need to attach other documents to the catch certificate such as a storage document or a processing statement to show what has been done to the fish or fish product.

How much will it cost to get a catch certificate or other IUU documents?

There are currently no plans to charge for the checking and validation of a UK export catch certificate or other associated documents. Port Health Authorities do charge for check on import catch certificates in line with Section 8 of The Sea fishing (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing Order 2009).

What do I do once I receive an import catch certificate or other IUU documentation from an EU exporter?

Port Health Authorities (PHAs) will need to determine whether third-country catch certificates or other associated documents such as processing statements fulfil UK requirements. The import catch certificate and or processing statements should be submitted to the relevant UK Port Health Authority.

How will you check (import) catch certificates or other associated IUU documents?

Port Health Authorities and the UK Fisheries Administrations are the competent authorities for imports of fish and fishery products into the UK by container or direct landings of fishing vessels.

Verification is conducted on a risk based, intelligence led model in conjunction with the UK Single Liaison Office which acts as a central point of contact for all catch certificate and IUU issues.

Other requirements for importing and exporting fish to the EU

How is the catch certificate different from an Export Health certificate? Do I need both?

A catch certificate confirms that fish have been caught legally under the Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) regulation.

An Export Health Certificate (EHC) proves that exports of animals and animal products comply with the quality and health standards of the destination country. An EHC is an official document, signed by a veterinarian or authorised signatory, and is specific to the product being exported and the destination country.

Both certificates are required for third countries trading with the EU.

Do I need to present the catch certificate at a Border Inspection Post on arrival in the EU?

While your fishery product can leave through any type of port or airport in the UK, if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, the product will only be able to enter an EU country through a Border Inspection Post (BIP).

The online export catch certification process will allow exporters to generate catch certificates and manage other supporting documents in order to export fisheries products to the EU once we leave on 12 April.

EU Exit and catch certificates

Are catch certificates required in an implementation period?

No – the current rules for trading fish with the EU would continue to apply during an implementation period. Catch certificates would still be required for trade with the non-EU countries listed under question 3.

If we reach a deal with the EU, will we need catch certificates?

The requirement for catch certificates once we leave the EU is a matter for negotiation. Other third countries that trade in fish with the EU, such as Norway or Iceland, are required to comply with the catch certificate system, so there’s a chance that the UK will also need to follow these rules, even if a deal is secured.

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