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RCVS guidance updated following change on fish and seafood export rules

17 December 2021

On 15 January 2022, new provisions affecting Export Health Certificates (EHCs) for fish and seafood exported from Great Britain to Northern Ireland and the EU will be introduced.

The most significant change arising from these new provisions is that, in certain circumstances, EHCs must be signed by an Official Veterinarian (OV) instead of a Fish Health Inspector (FHI). To address the challenges posed by this new requirement, including significant disruption to trade, the RCVS is changing its guidance to allow OVs to rely on information provided by FHIs when signing EHCs in line with guidance issued by the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) and Marine Scotland.

The changes to the RCVS guidance involve recognising FHIs as Officially Authorised Persons (‘OAPs’) and allowing OVs to carry out remote inspections in specified circumstances. New paragraphs will be added to Chapter 21 (‘Certification’) of the supporting guidance to the Code of Professional Conduct at 21.23 and 21.A.6, together with amendments to the existing paragraph 21.A.1, and will come into force on 15 January 2022.

The relevant guidance is set out below in full, with amendments to the existing guidance shown in italics and new guidance in bold.

Remote certification of live aquatic animals by Official Veterinarians

21.23 In some circumstances, it may be appropriate for OVs to carry out a clinical inspection for the purposes of certifying live aquatic animals for export via remote means. A remote inspection is only acceptable where, at the time of the inspection, a Fish Health Inspector authorised by the relevant Competent Authority is physically present at the relevant site. Further, the FHI must be in a position to provide information on the consignment’s compliance with animal health requirements. In these circumstances, OVs may rely on information provided by the FHI as regards the necessary animal health information in order to complete the relevant export health certificate.

21.24 OVs should also ensure there are accurate, up-to-date records from the premises of dispatch before confirming the consignment complies with the certification requirement.

21.25 OVs should refer to guidance notes issued by the Competent Authority for further information.


21.A.1 In certain specific situations OVs may rely on third party attestations by Officially Authorised Persons (OAPs). Generally, there will be expressed provision for this in legislation. OAPs must be authorised by the relevant Competent Authorities and, unless specifically detailed in the list below, must not make declarations or provide evidence to veterinarians which relies on veterinary clinical judgement or diagnosis. Changes (e.g. additions, amendments and/or withdrawals) to OAP categories shall be determined by mutual agreement between the Competent Authorities and RCVS. Currently recognised OAPs are:

a.      A Certification Support Officer (CSO) or Trade Certification Support Officer (TCSO) working under the direction, authority and responsibility of the certifying OV – see paragraph 21.A.2

b.      an official auxiliary working under the direction or supervision of an OV and/or for whom an OV has responsibility (as defined in UK legislation) - see paragraph 21.A.3

c.      a portal assistant working under the direction or supervision of a Portal Official Veterinary Surgeon (P-OVS) and/or for whom a P-OVS has responsibility (as defined in UK legislation) – see paragraph 21.A.4

d.      a Food Competent Certifying Officer designated by the UK competent authority to provide official export health certification – see paragraph 21.A.5

e.      a Fish Health Inspector (FHI) authorised by the relevant Competent Authority in the UK to carry out official controls for aquatic animals. FHIs may provide evidence to OVs which includes clinical judgement or diagnosis relating to aquatic animal health – see paragraph 21.A.6.


21.A.6 Current UK legislation permits certain professionals who are not veterinary surgeons to be authorised as inspectors for aquatic animal health matters by the relevant Competent Authority. Where a veterinarian wishes to rely on attestations made by an FHI the following general guidance applies:

a.      Veterinarians may only use the supporting attestations from FHIs to support export certification of live aquatic animals (either intended human consumption or not) and products of animal origin (POAO) from these aquatic animals intended for human consumption.

b.     Veterinarians may rely on declarations or evidence provided by FHIs pertaining to clinical judgement or diagnosis which relates to aquatic animal health. FHIs are authorised by the Competent Authority for aquatic animal health matters, including delivery of Official Controls, and duties required under the Aquatic Animal Health (England and Wales) Regulations 2009 and Aquatic Animal Health (Scotland) Regulations 2009.

c.      FHIs may not provide supporting attestations to veterinarians relating to terrestrial animals or the products from these animals.

d.     FHIs may not provide supporting attestations to veterinarians relating to public health matters.

e.      For further guidance, OVs should refer to the Competent Authority guidance for the relevant certificate and/or contact APHA/DAERA.

If you have any questions about the changes to the RCVS guidance, please contact the RCVS Standards & Advice Team on

If you are interested in undertaking this work or have any questions regarding the guidance issued by Cefas and Marine Scotland, please contact Defra’s Aquatic Animal Health Policy Team on

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