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Importing fish into the UK comes under the regulations of the Fish Disease Act. The principle aim of this Act is to protect the native fish stocks from diseases or from the accidental/deliberate release of non-native fish species that may harm existing populations. These regulations and licences are administered by the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). The Fisheries Inspectorate is based at CEFAS (Centre for Environment, Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Science) in Weymouth, and the State Veterinary Service is in Reigate with offices at Heathrow and Gatwick. Pre-planning is important to ensure that the exporter is correctly notified of the necessary documents that must accompany the fish or embryos.

DEFRA documents are not needed for fish/embryos sent to UCL from within the EU as only customs documents are required (however see regulations for transgenic fish and fish carrying harmful mutations below). The customs note needs to be on headed notepaper by the exporting facility and should list origin and destination details, contact numbers, declared commercial value of a nominal 1 or $1, and a declaration of the fishes health, and that they and their contents are non-hazardous and non-toxic. For fish and embryos sent to UCL from outside the EU an Import Licence (DOF8C) is required detailing origin and destination of the species, and the numbers you expect to import within the following 12 month period; one licence will be required for each site you will be importing from. A shipping agent can be used to handle the paperwork at the airport and deliver the consignment to UCL facility; the agent needs to receive the appropriate Import Licence (DOF8C) in advance of arrival including details of flight numbers, contacts, and delivery and invoicing addresses.

The fish must travel in accordance with IATA guidelines. Adult fish must travel in at least double wrapped plastic fish bags, with approximately 1:2 volume of water to air. The air must comprise of not more than 50% bottled oxygen to avoid gill damage. Two elastic bands are recommended to secure the bags closed and to ease inspection if necessary. The bags should travel within a insulated polystyrene box and lid within a cardboard outer box for extra insulation and protection. Any void space within the box should be filled with polystyrene chips to prevent bag movement within the box. Embryos can be sent in small tissue culture flasks with 1: 3 water to air ratio. The State Veterinary Service in Reigate requires advanced notice (minimum 1 day before day of intended import) on headed notepaper detailing origin, destination, species, flight number etc. The SVS office will then notify the MAFF inspection centre at Heathrow/Gatwick of the forthcoming arrival for inspection and clearance of the paperwork in accordance with IATA guidelines. The SVS office aim to get the fish/embryos through customs as quickly as possible with the total holdup time from arrival being approximately 4 hours. Cost per box is approximately 10 for veterinary clearance and 5.00/hour for SVS work.

For details/contacts on couriers, shipping agents for shipping fish contact the UCL facility. DEFRA SVS in Reigate: 01737 242242 DEFRA SVS at Heathrow: 0208 7597002 CEFAS in Weymouth: 01305 206673

Exporting fish and embryos
A DEFRA licence is not required to export fish from the UK. It is the responsibility of the person requesting embryos to fully check with the regulations of their own countries before a request is made; if 'passport' paperwork is to be supplied to accompany the fish or eggs during their transit please allow time for this to get to us, and the same goes if you require a health certificate from our vet. The fish must not be delayed at customs or courier depots unnecessarily. Home Office interest in fish carrying mutations and transgenic lines The Home Office must be notified in advanced if transgenic fish or fish carrying harmful mutations are to be moved between facilities in the UK and aboard. These arrangements will need to be made before the movement of fish.

Material Transfer Agreements (MTA)
Many fish lines are subject to MTA documentation. We can only export fish which are covered by an MTA if the recipient has signed all such documents from the original provider of the line.

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