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Aquatic Animal Health Export Policy Framework

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In the present version of this framework, contact information, references to specific organizations within the CFIA, and references to other documents or policies may not be current. This information will be updated at the time of the next revision of this framework. Please contact the CFIA for any questions or further information.

On this page

  1. Overview of the CFIA
  2. Roles and responsibilities for export certificate development
  3. Export verification activities and certification
  4. Conditions related to issuance of export certificates

1. Overview of the CFIA

1.1 Background

Within the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), the Aquatic Animal Health Division (AAHD) is specifically responsible for evaluation of Canada's ability to meet the aquatic animal health zoosanitary requirements and health certification requirements for export. The authority to conduct this evaluation and certification is part of the Agency's mandate described in Health of Animals Act and Regulations as well as the ability to negotiate technical agreements as described in the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act. Within the Agency, Fish and Seafood Production Division is responsible for export certification of the food safety and quality of seafood products and are guided by other acts and regulations.

1.2 Purpose

This document describes the Aquatic Animal Health Division process of aquatic animal health certification for export. The intent is to provide a general overview of the activities that are part of this process, the roles and responsibilities of the parties involved and the guiding principles used by CFIA to determine the appropriate circumstances for provision of aquatic animal health export certificates. Detailed application and procedural documents are provided to exporters, as well as for CFIA staff or other designated CFIA staff involved officially in export certification.

1.3 Scope of the National Aquatic Animal Health Export Program

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is recognized by the World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH; founded as Office International des Épizooties (OIE)) as Canada's competent authority for aquatic animal health and is responsible for providing health certification of aquatic animals in circumstances where importing countries request aquatic animal health certification and Canada can meet the importing country zoosanitaryFootnote 1 requirements. When zoosanitary issues arise, CFIA is responsible for negotiating technical market access for Canadian aquatic animals and products thereof.

CFIA's authority for certification of aquatic animal health is part of the Agency's responsibility for administration of the duties described in the Health of Animals Act.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act in subsection 11 (1) assigns responsibility for administration and enforcement of the following Acts:

Subsection 14 (2) of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Act also states that, in exercising its responsibilities, the Agency may negotiate and enter into arrangements for the implementation of technical requirements for the international movement of products or other things regulated under an Act or provision that the Agency enforces or administers by virtue of Section 11.

To further define the scope of these responsibilities, by virtue of Section 2 of the Export Inspection and Certification Exemption Regulations aquatic animals and their products are exempt from the requirement laid out in section 19 of the Health of Animals Act, that all shipments of animals exported by vessel or aircraft must be certified by a veterinary inspector. Thus shipments of aquatic animals and products thereof are certified by the CFIA only at the request of the importing country and to the conditions stipulated by that country. Certification of the zoosanitary requirements of aquatic animal exports is based on negotiated technical arrangements between countries.

2. Roles and responsibilities for export certificate development

2.1 Request for certification

An exporter is responsible for requesting in writing, aquatic animal health export certification. These requests vary depending on whether or not there is an existing process for the export of a particular commodity, and if a negotiated certificate is readily available.

In circumstances where there is an established, or officially negotiated certificate, an export certification request may be limited to the specific information related to the shipment; for example the coordinates of the exporter, importer, dates, quantities, etc. A new application is not required.

In circumstances where there is not an existing certificate established by CFIA for the commodity, and/or country to which that commodity is destined, a written application outlining the information on the specific shipment is required. It is the exporter's responsibility to determine what the importing country requirements are for his/her commodity prior to making application to the CFIA.

2.2 Determination of export requirements

An exporter is responsible for determination of all documentation required to export to a foreign country. Exporters are to communicate with their importers to obtain all documents that specifically outline the trade requirements of the importing country.

2.3 Determination of whether Canada can meet a country's sanitary requirements

Once the documents have been obtained, the CFIA is responsible for evaluation of Canada's ability to meet the importing country's zoosanitary requirements and, if necessary, communication and negotiation with the competent authority of the importing country.

Considerations include:

2.4 Development of an aquatic animal health zoosanitary certificate

CFIA will draft an export health certificate, and propose it to the competent authority of the importing country once the import conditions are judged or negotiated as reasonable and achievable within the context of the Canadian situation.

2.5 Determination of whether negotiation is required

If the requirements cannot be met, then the Aquatic Animal Health Division will assess Canada's ability to negotiate market access and, if appropriate, initiate negotiation with the importing country's competent authority. Establishment of negotiated certificates may require involvement of CFIA technical negotiators, risk assessors and scientific advisors in the development of protocols for surveillance, testing, inspection and facility certification requirements. Negotiation of market access can be lengthy and, in some circumstances, market access may not be possible.

2.6 Responsibility when importing country's requirements include both food safety and animal health requirements

Increasing numbers of countries are requesting aquatic animal health certification for live aquatic animals and products being exported from Canada. International accepted standards for guidance on food safety (CODEX) differ from those recognized for aquatic animal health (Aquatic Animal Health Code, World Organisation for Animal Health (WOAH)). Within the CFIA, there is a separation of regulatory authority and administration of programs for export certification for food safety and aquatic animal health. Certificates where there are requirements for both food safety and aquatic animal health are developed in consultation with CFIA's Fish, Seafood and Production Division (FSPD) and the Aquatic Animal Health Division (AAHD).

3. Export verification activities and certification

3.1 Export verification activities

An export certificate is a legal document which can contain one or more official statements attesting that the commodity being exported meets the known import requirements of the importing country. To maintain the integrity of the certification process, the signing officials are required to verify that the information included in the certificate is accurate and refers only to matters that are within his/her knowledge at the time of signing.

Activities that may be conducted by CFIA may include a physical inspection of facilities and animals, record review, sampling and evaluation of animals or products for the presence of disease. If diagnostic testing is required as part of the export certification, testing will be carried out in a laboratory approved by the exporting country or in a CFIA/DFO (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) National Aquatic Animal Health Laboratory.

3.2 Certification

CFIA will verify that all signing officials issuing and endorsing aquatic animal health certificates are trained, designated and authorized as required under the various Acts administered by the Agency.

Responsibilities are assigned, commensurate with training and experience of the signing official (CFIA inspectors and veterinary inspectors), and follow the legislative authority governing the practice of Veterinary Medicine in Canada.

4. Conditions related to issuance of export certificates

4.1 Validity of an export certificate

Export certificates will be time limited in accordance with the agreed upon requirements of the importing country. Export certificates are valid only for the specific commodity for which they were issued. The shipment needs to be protected from a change in health status between the issuance of the certificate and the time of export.

4.2 Service standards

CFIA will acknowledge a request for certification within 5 business days of receiving the request. For delivery of established certificates, the time required until certification of any export is variable and depends upon on the specific verification required. In circumstances where there is no certificate established or changes and/or modifications to a certificate are required, time to delivery will depend on the importing country's response to the CFIA bilateral negotiation efforts and the scope of the resulting requirements.

4.3 Creating export certificates

Export certificates are created and signed off once all required information has been provided by the exporter and validated as accurate and all other verification activities have been completed. Once completed, the original export certificate will be signed and crimped and will accompany the shipment. Exporters must contact their nearest CFIA office if they require a certificate.

Copies of official documents may be made but must be distinguishable from the original. The original certificate must accompany the shipment to the destination country unless otherwise agreed upon with the importing country.

4.4 Amendment of export certificates

After an export certificate has been issued, amendments may be provided only if the original certificate is returned to the issuing CFIA office, and if the amendments do not alter Canada's ability to meet the importing country's zoosanitary requirements. The signing official must verify that the health status of the shipment remains unchanged.

4.5 Replacement of export certificates

A replacement export certificate may be provided when the original certificate has been lost or damaged. A replacement export certificate may be issued in cases of a lost or damaged certificate where CFIA is satisfied that the integrity of the shipment has not been compromised.

4.6 Shipments "in transit" through Canada

Shipments transiting Canada and destined for export to a third country must have appropriate documentation and meet the conditions on an AAHD in-transit permit to enter Canada including a valid import permit for the destination country. This verifies that the animals and products transiting through Canada do not negatively impact on Canada's aquatic animal health status and facilitates the movement of animals to their final destination.

Shipments that originate in Canada and are intended to transit one country prior to arrival in the importing country are certified only for the first country in which they are potentially exposed to infectious disease hazards. Exceptions occur where country technical arrangements and/or negotiated agreements are in place.

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