"Christmas Dinner" Carp Seized At Dover

UK Border Agency Officers at the Port of Dover, working in conjunction with the government’s Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI), seized live carp destined for Christmas menus on two occasions prior to Christmas 2009.

The Inspectorate, based at the Centre for Environment, Fisheries & Aquaculture Science, advises that it is illegal to import live coldwater fish unless from an EU “approved” zone and accompanied by a movement document issued by an authorised veterinary inspector.

In both pre-Christmas incidents the carp were being transported by Eastern European nationals whose paperwork was not in order.

On 16 December 2009 a white Ford Transit van was intercepted as it entered the Port, having travelled through France from the Czech Republic. Upon examination the vehicle was found to contain a quantity of foodstuffs, including four live carp.

In a second incident, on 21 December, a white VW van entered the Port from France with a large container of fish. Upon closer examination that consignment was found to contain 130 live carp.

The Eastern European occupants of both vehicles were interviewed and stated that the fish were intended for the “Christmas table”. Follow-up enquiries are continuing in each case with a view to pursuing prosecutions.

The fish were confiscated and, in line with FHI/Defra policy, were subsequently destroyed to ensure that no disease is spread from their possible introduction into UK waters. 

Stuart Katon, the FHI’s Enforcement and Investigations Officer said: "We have past experience of Eastern European nationals attempting to import live carp for the table in the run up to Christmas. Some cultures regard carp as a delicacy. Nevertheless, importing fish without the correct documentation remains an illegal act.

"In response to recent incidents we will now be engaging with Eastern European communities based here in the UK to ensure that they are fully aware of the law and their legal responsibilities."

More information about the importation of live fish may be found by visiting www.efishbusiness.co.uk/imports/default.asp. Or contact the Fish Health Inspectorate directly on 01305 206700 / fhi@cefas.co.uk.

Stuart Katon can be contacted on 01305 20681. All enquiries and any information supplied about potentially illegal movements of live fish will be dealt with in strict confidence.

Additional Information
1. Cefas is the UK’s largest and most diverse applied marine science organisation. Bridging the interface between science, policy and delivery, it operates as an executive agency of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra). It provides evidence-based scientific advice, manages related data and information, conducts world-class scientific research, and facilitates collaborative action through wide-ranging relationships. Working both in the UK and internationally, it plays a vital role in securing healthy marine and freshwater environments. It has over 500 staff, two UK laboratories (in Lowestoft and Weymouth), its own ocean-going research vessel, and over 100 years of experience. For more detail about its range of activities visit www.cefas.co.uk.

2. The Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI), based at Cefas’ Weymouth laboratory, is dedicated to maintaining and improving fish and shellfish health in England and Wales. Its primary role is to act for Defra and the National Assembly for Wales, Agriculture Department (NAWAD) in undertaking statutory and inspection duties resulting from the EU Fish Health regime and other national legislation in the area of fish and shellfish health. The Inspectorate is responsible for health certification of fish and shellfish movements from other countries, and runs an enforcement programme aimed at preventing the illegal importation of these animals. For more about movement controls and enforcement visit www.cefas.co.uk/fhi/movements.htm.

3. Carp were once a common food source in the UK. Now they are popular with UK anglers, who “catch and return” millions of carp every year. According to the Environment Agency, specialist big carp fishing has developed since the 1940s, and carp fishing has also led the way in fish care and protection on the bank.

4. Smuggled fish pose a great risk of spreading disease to indigenous fish stocks and within native waters. Upon arrival in the UK, their original country of origin is often undetermined, and their health status and certification may also be uncertain. Simply deporting the fish back to their assumed country of origin does not stop repeated attempts to import them via another entry point.

5. Quarantine facilities at ports do not offer the best option for controlling potential fish diseases. In addition, continuing to keep fish in confined conditions (where they may have already been in transit for long periods) introduces further welfare issues. Therefore, humanely destroying the fish ensures that the UK remains disease-free, as much as practicable.