European Union IUU Fishing Frequent Questions
Note: The information in this document is subject to change and may be periodically updated. Last Updated August 17, 2021
General Information on the EC IUU Fishing Regulation
What are the requirements in the IUU Regulation?
The European Commission (EC) adopted Regulation 1005/2008 to prevent, deter and eliminate Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing on September 29, 2008 with an effective date of January 1, 2010. One of the core elements of the EC IUU fishing Regulation is the requirement that all wild caught seafood imports have a Legal Harvest, a document ensuring that all maritime fisheries products which are to be traded with the EU are obtained in compliance with existing conservation and management measures.
The EC released Commission Regulation (EC) No 1010/2009 of 22 October 2009 laying down detailed rules for the implementation of Council Regulation (EC) No 1005/2008 establishing a Community system to prevent, deter and eliminate illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. The EC Regulation No 1010/2009 is available online at:
The NOAA Fisheries Service is the only competent authority recognized by the EU for issuance of both the health certificate and Legal Harvest document. The NOAA Fisheries Service Seafood Inspection Program validates and issues both documents.
How is the Legal Harvest document different from the EU health certificate? Why do I need both?
Certification is required by two separate EC directorates with distinct and separate responsibilities. The health certificate is required by the EU Directorate-General for Health and Consumer Protection and attests to the safety of fish and fishery products shipped to the EU. The Legal Harvest document is required by the EU Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries and attests that the items in the shipment were caught in compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (16 U.S.C. 1801 et seq.) and other applicable state and Federal conservation and management laws and regulations. Both are required under EU regulations.
How will NOAA Fisheries verify the products were legally caught?
NOAA Fisheries will rely on the full range of compliance tools mandated in the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management and Conservation Act and other applicable state and Federal conservation and management laws and regulations to ensure products are legally caught. NOAA will conduct periodic audits to ensure full compliance.
Are only seafood products from non-EU nations covered by the EC IUU Fishing Regulation?
All seafood products entering the EU market, including products caught by EU-flagged vessels operating outside of the EU EEZ are covered by the requirements of the EC IUU fishing Regulation. In addition, all exports from the EU to any third country will be subject to the EC IUU fishing Regulation. EU Member States engaged in intra-EU trade are expected to supply the same data as required by the EC IUU fishing Regulation as described in the amended EU Control Regime which was recently adopted.
Do all seafood exports to the EU require a Legal Harvest document?
Fishery products which fall under Chapter 03 and Tariff Headings 1604 and 1605 of the EU Harmonized System Tariff Code are covered with some exceptions listed below. The specific HS codes for exempted products have been published in Annex XIII of EC Regulation 1010/2009 which is appended to this document.
Learn more about Exclusions from the EC IUU fishing Regulations
A Legal Harvest document is required for fishery products intended for animal or pet food if the products are included in Chapters 03, 1604, or 1605 of the EU Harmonized System Tariff Code (with the exception of the products listed in Annex XIII of EC 1010/2009). Fishmeal in Chapter 23 does NOT require a Legal Harvest document.
All catches from U.S. flagged vessels, regardless of size (even small vessels) require a Legal Harvest US document for import into the EU. Article 6 of the EU Implementing Regulations provide for a simplified catch certificate for different classes of small boats. The U.S. Legal Harvest US document will be used for all size classes of U.S. flagged vessels.
The Legal Harvest document should cover the product which will be exported to the EU, not the whole catch. A Legal Harvest document will be required by consignment. Multiple species may be included for each Legal Harvest document.
One Legal Harvest document can be used for both Live as well as processed product as long as all the products in the consignment are going to the same importer.
Procedures for Export Certification to the EU
How and when is a request for a Legal Harvest document submitted to the NOAA Seafood Inspection Program and what do I do with the Legal Harvest document when it’s issued?
The request for a Legal Harvest document should be made at the same time as the request for an EU health certificate, however, the EU health certificate and the Legal Harvest document can be requested separately.
Once you have received the signed Legal Harvest document it must be provided by the importer to the designated authority in the Member State according to their requirements, prior to product arrival. The EC published implementing regulations (EC Regulation 1010/2009) for Member States and importers on October 22, 2009.
The document must be transmitted by the EU importer to the EU Member State authority at least three working days prior to arrival in the EU for product shipped on vessels and four hours prior to arrival for product transported by air freight. The EU importer will be responsible for maintaining Legal Harvest document records and making them available to his/her government officials. We advise industry to maintain copies of the Legal Harvest documents for their own records.
The EU requires a document be issued before the product may be imported into the EU. It is within the rights of EU officials to inspect records to refuse importation of products if it is not accompanied by proper Legal Harvest documentation or for which there has been no prior notification.
Will both my health certificate and Legal Harvest document be delivered as a package? Will they be delivered electronically? Does the exporter have to affix a seal? What is an e-signature?
Both documents should be able to be requested electronically but only the Legal Harvest document can be delivered electronically to the requestor at this time. The health certificate must be mailed to the requestor via FedEx or picked up by the requestor at the nearest inspection office. The NOAA Seafood Inspection Program prefers to deliver the Legal Harvest document electronically to the requestor. The EU is considering whether health certificates can be accepted electronically in the future.
The exporter is required to keep the records but for auditing purposes, each firm/company/entity along the chain of custody should retain records to answer “who, what, where and when” type questions. The exporter must keep records related to the Legal Harvest certificate for three years.
The seal is an image unique to the exporting business. The Online Request System will insert a unique, default seal into the customer account when a new account is established. The seal image file will be inserted automatically onto the certificate when it is issued by SIP.
An electronic signature, or e-signature, is a method of signing an electronic message that: (A) identifies and authenticates a particular person as the source of the electronic message; and (B) indicates such person's approval of the information contained in the electronic message. By using the Online Request System, exporters will authorize the use of an e-signature statement on the certificate. The statement will be inserted automatically onto the certificate when it is issued by SIP.
Costs and Payments
What is the cost of an EU catch document?
The NOAA Seafood Inspection Program is a fee for service program that is required to recuperate all costs associated with the program and its services. The cost for a Legal Harvest document will be bundled with the cost for a health certificate when requested together. Please see current Seafood Inspection Program fees.
You may request a Legal Harvest document without a health certificate. The cost of a Legal Harvest document alone without a health certificate will be the same cost as a single certificate under the current rates.
Transshipment, Re-Export, and Foreign Processing Scenarios
What’s Annex IV?
The Annex IV is a document required by the EU in the IUU fishing Regulation attesting that the products received from a given country were accompanied by a valid Legal Harvest document and that the final products being re-exported to the EU are coming from that initial consignment. This document is to be completed by the processor or exporter of the transiting country and endorsed by the competent authorities of that particular country. In the event that an American exporter is exporting product to the EU that was sourced in another country, (Canada or Mexico, for instance) the U.S. exporter will have to send the Annex IV document to the EU importer along with the original Legal Harvest document.
NOAA will issue an Annex IV for products imported from another non-EU country, further processed in the U.S., and re-exported to the EU.
Do I need a Legal Harvest document even if my product is going to another country before the EU?
Only the U.S. Government may issue a Legal Harvest document for products legally harvested by U.S. flagged vessels.
If a consignment from the US is further processed in another country and re-exported to the EU, it is the responsibility of the U.S. exporter to provide a Legal Harvest document for fishery products harvested by U.S. flagged vessels to the importer in a third country. It is the responsibility of the exporter from a third country to forward the U.S. Legal Harvest document and the EC Regulation 1005/2008 Annex IV document, issued and signed by the third country authorities, to the EU importer.
If my product is caught by a US flagged vessel, transshipped in a consignment through a Pacific Island destination and sent to an importer and a foreign country a Legal Harvest document must be requested following the procedures outlined on this website. After a request is received and validated, the program will deliver the Legal Harvest document to the requester.