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Import - Live Fish

Live Fish Imports

USDA Guide Sheet for Live Finfish Imports

Live finfish of most species may be imported into the United States without import requirements from USDA. However, 8 species of fish that are susceptible to the disease Spring viremia of carp (SVC) have recently come under USDA oversight. These species are: common carp, including koi carp (Cyprinus carpio), goldfish (Carassius auratus), grass carp (Ctenopharyngodon idellus), silver carp (Hypophthalmichthys molitrix), bighead carp (Aristichthys nobilis), Crucian carp (Carassius carassius), tench (Tinca tinca), and sheatfish (Silurus glanis).

New regulations have been developed for the importation of live fish and their gametes (eggs and milt) from these species. The regulations pertain to commercial shipments and to fish brought in to the US as personal baggage.

Live fish of these species may continue to be imported, provided they are accompanied by a USDA import permit and a veterinary health certificate issued by a full-time veterinary officer or Competent Authority of the National Government of the exporting country.

Importers must now use new identifying Harmonized Tariff Structure import codes assigned by the International Trade Commission for these species on shipping manifests and invoices. The following codes are now in effect:

Applicable HTS Codes
0301.10.00.10 - Koi and Common Carp
0301.10.00.20 - Goldfish and Crucian Carp
0301.93.00.10 - Grass, Silver and Bighead Carp
0301.99.00.10 - Tench and Sheatfish
0511.91.00.10 - Fertilized Eggs or milt of these species

HTS import codes for other species of finfish may be obtained from brokers or the ITC.


A USDA import permit (form VS17-129) must be used to import the live SVC-susceptible fish listed above. Import permit applications may be obtained from the USDA's National Import and Export Services, Unit 39, 4700 River Rd., Riverdale, MD 20737-1231, or by downloading the form VS 17-129 along with the Instructions on Completing the VS Form 17-129.

Once the application is completed, it may be faxed to the number on the application. Importers should allow 7-10 business days for processing. An original permit must accompany shipments of live SVC-susceptible fish or their gametes.

User Fee Information

Health Certificates

The veterinary health certificate from the exporting country should be issued in the following format:

  • It must be in English or accompanied by an official English translation.
  • It must be dated no more than 30 days prior to the date of entry to the United States.
  • It must be endorsed by the Competent Authority of the exporting country.

The health certificate must confirm the following:

  • That all animals or gametes covered by the certificate originate from areas or premises that are free from SVC. SVC-susceptible fish populations in the region or establishment must be tested at least twice annually, with at least 3 months between the tests and at times or under environmental conditions that would facilitate the detection of SVCV if it were present. Sampling procedures must utilize an assumed pathogen prevalence of 2 percent, with a corresponding confidence level of 95 percent. Samples must be collected and submitted by a certifying official or veterinarian recognized by the competent authority. Testing must be performed in laboratories that have been approved for SVC testing by the Competent Authority of the exporting country. The standard screening method for SVC must include isolation of SVCV in cell culture, using either the epithelioma papulosum cyprini (EPC) or fathead minnow (FHM) cell lines.
  • That the facility is currently participating in an ongoing SVC monitoring and surveillance program recognized by the Competent Authority of the exporting country.
  • That the consignment was inspected by a licensed veterinarian or other approved representative of the exporting country's Competent Authority within 72 hours of shipment, and found to be without clinical evidence of disease.
  • That all containers used in shipping are either of new material or have been cleaned and disinfected according to protocols listed in the interim rule. If containers are not new, details of cleaning and disinfection (C&D) should be included on the Export Health Certificate or on a separate C&D certificate.

Port Inspections

In addition to these document requirements, the 8 species of SVC-susceptible fish included in the regulations must enter the US through a list of designated ports where USDA Veterinary Services personnel are available to process the shipments. These ports are: Los Angeles, CA; San Francisco, CA; Miami, FL; Tampa, FL; Atlanta, GA; Honolulu, HI; Chicago, IL; Boston, MA; Detroit, MI; Newark, NJ; Buffalo-Niagara, NY; New York, NY; Portland, OR; Dallas-Ft. Worth, TX; Seattle, WA; Sumas, WA; Otay Mesa, CA, and San Juan, PR.

SVC-susceptible fish must be imported only through the above ports. If they attempt to enter the US through other, non-designated ports, they will be refused entry by DHS personnel.

Importers of live fish from these 8 species must notify the VS Port Veterinarian 72 hrs. in advance of the expected arrival of shipments to be sure that clearance procedures are expedited in a timely manner. Port veterinarians may be contacted through their respective VS Area Offices (see list below). A User Fee of $120.00 per hour (including travel time if applicable) will apply for port inspections of imported consignments of SVC-susceptible fish.

The contact information for the Veterinary Services Area Offices for the above ports may be found at the Animal Imports Port List web site.

SVC-susceptible fish species may be imported to the US under conditions of transit to a third country under slightly different conditions. An import permit is still needed, but such shipments do not need to be accompanied by an export health certificate, provided they meet the following conditions while in transit:

  • They are maintained under continuous confinement while in transit through the United States aboard an aircraft, ocean vessel, or other means of conveyance; or
  • They are transferred during transit into a holding facility that is provided by the carrier or its agent and which has been approved by APHIS as adequate to prevent the spread within the United States of SVC; and they are maintained there under continuous confinement until loaded aboard a means of conveyance for transportation from the United States where they will be maintained under continuous confinement until it leaves the United States.
  • They are moved in accordance with any additional conditions prescribed in the permit and determined by APHIS to be necessary to ensure that the live fish, fertilized eggs, or gametes do not introduce SVC into the United States.

Holding facilities for transiting fish must be approved in advance by APHIS. For a holding facility to be approved, the following conditions must be met:

  • The holding facility must be sufficiently isolated to prevent direct or indirect contact of the live fish, fertilized eggs, or gametes it contains with any other SVC-susceptible species in the United States.
  • The holding facility must be constructed to provide adequate protection against environmental conditions and so that it can be adequately cleaned, washed and disinfected.
  • Provision must be made for disposal of fish carcasses, shipping water, waste, and any associated shipping materials in a manner that will prevent dissemination of disease.
  • Provision must be made for adequate sources of feed and water and for attendants for the care and feeding of fish, fertilized eggs, or gametes in the facility.
  • The holding facility must comply with all applicable local, State and Federal requirements for environmental quality.
  • The holding facility must comply with any additional requirements that may be imposed by the Administrator for a particular shipment if necessary to prevent the dissemination of disease.

Fish that do not meet these new entry requirements will be refused entry to the US. Importers will have the option of immediately re-exporting refused entry shipments, or the shipments will be destroyed and disposed of at their expense.

For additional information please contact us at:

National Import and Export Services
4700 River Road, Unit 39
Riverdale, MD 20737
301-851-3300 Telephone
301-734-4704 Fax



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