Archived - Canadian Regulatory Requirements for Fish Import Licence Holders (Basic Importers)
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This regulatory directive outlines the Canadian regulatory requirements for importing fish and seafood products into Canada for commercial purposes as food for direct human consumption or further processing. This directive describes the responsibilities of the importer as it applies to importing fish and seafood products into Canada under a fish import licence.
This directive applies to all fish import licence holders and applicants who are interested in the requirements for importing fish into Canada under a fish import licence. These importers are called "basic importers".
3. Relevant Legislation
3.1 Regulatory Framework
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) is the federal agency that enforces the policies and standards set by Health Canada, governing the safety and nutritional quality of all food sold in Canada. The CFIA's mandate is to safeguard Canada's food, animals, and plants and to protect public health.
The Fish Inspection Regulations require persons who import fish into Canada to be licenced by the CFIA. The responsibilities of the importer and licencing requirements are outlined in the Fish Inspection Regulations.
The authority for the control and inspection of fish is provided by the following Acts and Regulations:
- Fish Inspection Act (R.S.C., 1985. c. F-12)
- Fish Inspection Regulations (C.R.C. 1978 c. 802, as amended)
- Canadian Food Inspection Agency Fees Notice, Part 16
- Food and Drugs Act and Food and Drug Regulations (as it relates to food)
- Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and Consumer Packaging and Labelling Regulations (as it relates to food)
The CFIA also takes into consideration the requirements of other Canadian Acts and Regulations applicable to the inspection of food, such as applicable legislation relating to the National Aquatic Animal Health Program and Provincial/Territorial requirements.
4. Importer Regulatory Requirements
4.1 Licencing [FIR, 6. (2) (d), 6.1 (1); CFIA Fees Notice, Part 16]
All importers are required to have a fish import licence issued by the CFIA prior to the importation of fish into Canada.
By applying for a licence you agree to be responsible for the fish that you import and you will ensure that it meets all the applicable Canadian regulatory requirements. As well, you must meet all the applicable import licence and fish inspection regulatory requirements. To apply for a fish import licence, submit a complete application package to:
CFIA Accounts Receivable
P.O. Box 6199
33 Weldon Street Suite 100
Moncton, NB E1C 0N5
A complete application package for fish import licence must include the following:
- completed application form for a fish import licence. Application for a fish import licence (CFIA/ACIA 5587).
- for new importers, Application for Credit (CFIA/ACIA 0015).
- $500 fee as fixed by Part 16 of the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Fees Notice. Cheques should be made out to the Receiver General for Canada.
- Canada Revenue Agency Business Number documentation.
In addition to the application package you are required to advise CFIA how you will meet the following regulatory requirements
- import products that are not tainted, decomposed or unwholesome and meet all Canadian regulatory requirements (see Section 4.2 Sourcing Product)
- store products in a way that prevents contamination and deterioration (see Section 4.3.3 Product Storage and Packaging)
- track distribution of product you import including name and address of person to whom you sold the fish and the date it was sold (see Section 4.7.2 Product Distribution Records)
- track complaints and investigate information that you receive which questions the safety of your product (see Section 4.6 Health and Safety Investigation and Notification and Section 4.7.3 Product Complaint Records)
- obtain process control documents for canned and ready-to-eat products you import (see Section 4.7.4 Process Control Documents)
The CFIA will review the application package and additional information to ensure it meets all the requirements prior to issuing the licence. Incomplete application packages will be returned to the applicant.
A fish import licence expires one year after the date of issue and is not transferable.
4.1.1 Duration and Validity of a Licence [FIR, 6.1 (2)]
A fish import licence expires one year after the date of issue and is not transferable.
A licence cannot be transferred or assigned to another business or person. The licence would become void if this were to occur.
If there is a change in shareholder status, or the transfer of ownership of a parent company, a licence will remain valid if the immediate ownership of the licence remains the same.
4.1.2 Licence Renewal
To request a licence renewal you must re-submit an application package as described in section 4.1. In order to maintain a valid import licence, your request for renewal should be initiated prior to the expiration of your current licence.
When you submit an application package for licence renewal, the CFIA will review your past compliance history to determine if you have been meeting your importer responsibilities in accordance with the Fish Inspection Regulations.
4.1.3 Licence Suspension, Revocation or Refusal [FIR, 6.2 (1)]
The CFIA may suspend, revoke or refuse to issue an import license to the holder or applicant of an import license, if the importer has provided false information or the importer has failed to meet the applicable requirements of the Fish Inspection Act or the Fish Inspection Regulations.
To maintain your import license in good standing, you must meet all the applicable FIR, requirements. Providing false information or failure to meet the applicable FIR, requirements may lead to a suspension or revocation of the import licence. The CFIA may refuse to issue a license if you are unable to demonstrate that you are willing or able to comply with the FIR, including the payment of fees. A license will also not be issued to legitimize the importation of product that has been imported without a license.
4.1.4 License Reinstatement [FIR, 6.2 (2), (3) and (4) CFIA Fees Notice]
The holder of an import licence which has been suspended or revoked may submit, within 60 days of the date of suspension or revocation, a written request to CFIA to determine whether the import license should be re-instated.
The result of the determination is final. The CFIA will charge the applicable fees for the services rendered as fixed by the CFIA Fees Notice, Part 16, Table 3.
4.2 Sourcing Product [FIR, 6. (1) (a), FDR, CPLR]
The importer must have a process in place to make sure that the fish they import meets the requirements of the Fish Inspection Regulations (FIR) and any other applicable regulatory requirements.
You must understand the risk(s) associated with the product(s) that you import. You are responsible to make sure that your product(s) meets all applicable Canadian regulatory requirements. Information relating to product risks, test requirements and standards can be found in sections 4.3 and 5 of the Product Inspection of Imported Fish.
You are required to take appropriate affirmative actions to only source product from suppliers that can provide assurances that the product meets Canadian regulatory requirements. If the supplier is not the producer of the product, they must be able to provide you the name and address of the producer and you must be able to verify and confirm the accuracy of this information. The supplier or producer of the product must be able to provide accurate product information regarding the species, the processing method and the production source (farmed or wild-caught fish).
The Fisheries and Aquaculture Department website of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations and Fishbase, a Global Information System on Fish website, provide information on fish species produced commercially from aquaculture/farming and the countries where commercial farming is in place. These sites may assist you in verifying the information from your supplier/producer regarding the production source. Please note that in the case of Fishbase only vertebrate species of fish are covered.
4.2.1 Prohibited Fish [FIR, 6. (4) (a), and (b)]
Importation of live freshwater mitten crab and puffer fish is prohibited.
Importation of the following fish is strictly prohibited:
- live freshwater mitten crab of the genus Eriocheir; and
- puffer fish of the family Tetraodontidae
4.2.2 Live and Raw Molluscan Shellfish [FIR, 6. (1) (b)]
Live or raw molluscan shellfish products, whether fresh or frozen, must be harvested in a country of harvest authorized to export to Canada and handled or processed by a shipper/establishment authorized to export to Canada Footnote 1.
These requirements and the procedures you must follow are described on the CFIA website in the document "Importing Live and Raw Molluscan Shellfish".
4.2.3 Fish product containing meat product [FIR, 6.1 (a), 3. (2) (b)]
Fish products containing meat product and which are commonly recognized as a fish product can only be imported if the meat product meets the requirements of the Meat Inspection Act and Regulations and the Health of Animals Act and Regulations.
The product can only be imported if the meat establishment where the animal was slaughtered and where the meat was processed is authorized to export meat product to Canada. On the Fish Import Notification, the importer must include the country and the establishment number where the animal was slaughtered and the country and the establishment number where the meat was processed.
Meat products containing fish ingredients and which are considered meat products are exempted from the Fish Inspection Act and Regulations and are regulated under the Meat Inspection Act and Regulations.
A listing of the products that falls into this category, can be found at on the CFIA website in the document "Classification of Products Containing Fish and Meat - Table of Accepted Processes and Ingredients".
If you are importing a product containing both meat and fish which is not listed, you must submit an application to the CFIA requesting an exemption from either the Meat Inspection Regulations or the Fish Inspection Regulations as outlined in Chapter 2, Subject 8 of the Fish Products Inspection Manual.
4.2.4 Novel Fish [FIR, 6.1 (a), FDR Division 28]
Novel fish products must be approved by Health Canada before they can be imported.
Prior to importing a new fish species, a fish product processed in new ways, or a fish product in packaging that is new to Canada, you must contact Health Canada for a safety assessment of the product. For further information on novel foods and the safety assessment guidelines, visit the website for Health Canada.
4.2.5 Endangered or Threatened Species
A CITES permit is required for the trade of endangered or threatened species on the CITES list.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments which controls the movement of endangered or threatened species between countries. A CITES permit is required for species on the list whether they are alive or dead, as well as products processed from these species. If you import any "CITES-listed" species without a valid CITES export permit, you risk losing your shipment and you could be prosecuted.
If you import, or intend to import, sturgeon or caviar (sturgeon eggs), you should be aware that sturgeon species are "CITES-listed", and specific import restrictions apply. Other fish species may be on the CITES list and you should verify this prior to importation to ensure that commercial trade is permitted and a CITES permit accompanies the shipment where applicable.
For more information on CITES, visit the website for the Canadian Wildlife Services of Environment Canada. For permit information, contact the Canadian CITES office at 1-800-668-6767 or 819-997-1840 or by email email@example.com.
4.2.6 Fish By-Products and Natural Health Products
Fish by-products imported for human consumption as a food or food ingredient or imported for further processing at an establishment registered under the Fish Inspection Regulations (FIR) are considered fish products and must meet the requirements of the FIR.
Fish by-products imported for further processing at an establishment licenced with Health Canada (HC) for the manufacture of Natural Health Products and/or drugs is not considered a fish product. However, you must be able to demonstrate that the fish by-product is going to an establishment licenced with HC for the manufacture of Natural Health Products and/or drugs in order for these products to be exempted from the FIR.
Fish by-products imported as a ready to use Natural Health Product (NHP) are regulated under the Natural Health Product Regulations. Before you can import a NHP for sale in Canada, the product must have received market authorisation from HC by way of a Natural Product Number (NPN) or Homeopathic Medicine Number (DIN-HM). You must also obtain a site license from HC in order to import for sale a NHP. Additional information on NHPs and the requirements for importing NHPs can be found on the website for Health Canada.
4.3 Import Product Notification, Control, Storage, and Identification
4.3.1 Product Notification [FIR, 6. (2) (b), and (e), 6. (2.1)]
Prior to entry into Canada, all importers must report their import shipment to Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) through electronic data interchange (EDI)
The importer must notify the CFIA of each shipment of fish imported into Canada either prior to entry or within 48 hours after importation into Canada.
You are required to report to the Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) each shipment imported. For information on CBSA importer requirements refer to the CBSA website.
You are also required to notify the CFIA of all fish imported. Each shipment of imported fish must be notified either prior to entry into Canada or within 48 hours after importation into Canada. To notify CFIA, use the Fish Import Notification (FIN) (CFIA/ACIA 5588) form and instructions to complete a FIN. You must accurately complete the notification with all required information and include the following additional information with your notification where applicable:
- for each lot of canned and ready-to-eat products, a can code list that identifies the foreign producer's establishment, the number of containers for each production code, and instructions on how to read the code.
- for fish imported for further processing, in a Canadian facility registered with the CFIA, a completed Import Products Destined for Further Processing in Federally Registered Establishments (CFIA/ACIA 5608).
The notification of a shipment can only be made to a single CFIA inspection office or Import Service Centre closest to the final storage location, as per instructions below.
- For shipments where the final storage destination is in:
Yukon, Northwest Territories, Nunavut, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, and Ontario,
notify: One (1) CFIA Inspection office closest to the location of the imported shipment of fish
- For shipments where the final storage destination is in Quebec:
notify: Canadian Food Inspection Agency
2001 Robert-Bourassa Boulevard, Rm 671-RMO
e-mail: Poisson mtl-ouest
- For shipments where the final storage destination is in:
New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland and Labrador
notify: Canadian Food Inspection Agency, Atlantic Import Center - Fish
99 Mount Pleasant Road
PO Box 1036
St. George, NB
Telephone: 506-456-4063 (English) / 506-755-5160 (French)
Facsimile : 506-456-4066
4.3.2 Product Control [FIR, 6. (2.2), 6. (2.3)]
The importer must hold the imported fish at the storage location declared on the fish import notification (FIN) until they are notified by CFIA of the inspection decision.
Imported fish that has been approved for entry into Canada by CBSA can be moved to the storage location identified on the FIN. You must request and obtain permission from a CFIA inspector to move product from the notified storage location. See Permission to Move Under Detention.
|You are notified by the CFIA that the product does not meet Fish Inspection Regulations||the product cannot be sold in Canada. The importer must make arrangements with the CFIA for disposal of the product.|
|You are notified by the CFIA that the product must be inspected||the product remains on hold until the CFIA completes the inspection and notifies you of the inspection results.|
|You are notified by the CFIA that the product does not need to be inspected||the product is released by the CFIA and the importer may sell the product.|
4.3.3 Product Storage and Packaging [FIR, 7 and 22]
The importer must make sure that products under their possession are packaged and stored in a manner to prevent contamination and deterioration.
You must ensure that imported products in your control are stored in a way to maintain product quality, and prevent contamination of your product. This includes proper temperature control during transportation and storage. You must also make sure that imported products are packaged in food grade packaging material.
4.3.4 Product Identification [FIR 6. (2) a) and c), and 6. (3)]
The importer must make sure at time of importation that the imported fish product is properly identified and labelled.
You must ensure that:
- each master carton of fish product is marked with the producer and date of packing;
- each container has a label on which the country of origin is clearly identified; and
- for canned product, the cans are marked with the producer and processing date code (day, month and year of processing).
In addition the product must also meet all the Canadian regulatory requirements for labelling. Labelling references can be found at Appendix B.1, B.2, B.3, and B.4.
4.4 Product Inspection Process
4.4.1 Making Product Available for Inspection [FIR, 4. and 5.]
The importer must make available imported fish or fish containers to an inspector for inspection. An inspector may take samples of fish for inspection free of charge.
All imported fish and seafood products are subject to inspection. Where CFIA has made a decision to inspect the product, you must make the entire lot of fish readily accessible for inspectors to take samples for inspection.
4.4.2 Product Under Detention to Maintain Identity [FIR, 8. (4), and 8. (4.1)]
The importer must not move, sell, or dispose of any fish or container of fish that has been placed under detention by the CFIA.
Where a decision has been made to inspect the product, samples will be taken from the lot, and the entire lot will be placed under detention by the CFIA.
Product under detention is identified by a red held tag, and must not be sold, moved or disposed of. You must request permission from a CFIA inspector to move product under detention.
4.4.3 Product Inspection Results [FIR, 6.5 (2) and (3), 8. (5)]
Product that does not meet the applicable requirements will be placed on the Mandatory Inspection List and refused distribution in Canada. Product that meets regulatory requirements will be released from detention.
The CFIA will notify the importer of the inspection results when all tests are completed.
|The product meets regulatory requirements||the product is released from detention and the Importer may sell the product.|
|The product does not meet regulatory requirements.||
the product cannot be sold in Canada.
the importer must make arrangements with the CFIA to either bring the product into compliance when permitted, or to dispose of the non-compliant product. See Appendix A.7 Disposition of Rejected Goods
4.4.4 Appeal/Reinspection [FIR, 10. (1), and (2), 10.1, 11., CFIA Fees Notice]
Where applicable, the importer may appeal an inspection decision in writing within 30 calendar days of receiving the inspection result(s) from the CFIA.
You may appeal an inspection decision in writing within 30 calendar days of receiving the inspection report. See Appendix A.5 Reinspection Form. CFIA will charge the applicable fees for a reinspection as fixed by the CFIA Fees Notice, Part 16, Table 3.
Where a reinspection has been granted, the reinspection decision is final.
4.5 Service Fees [FIR, 6.2 (1) (e), 6.4, CFIA Fees Notice]
A service fee is charged based on declared weight at importation, licence type and type of product as fixed by the CFIA Fees Notice, Part 16.
A service fee is charged by the CFIA for each lot of fish imported as set by the CFIA Fees Notice, Part 16, Table 2. This service fee is based on the total lot weight imported, the type of import licence you hold and the type of product imported. You will receive an invoice for these fees at set intervals from the CFIA. Failure to pay the service fees or any other fish inspection fee set out in the CFIA Fees Notice may lead to licence sanctions.
Imported products intended for further processing are charged the service fee which applies to products for further processing only when the processing is done at a facility registered with the CFIA.
4.6 Health and Safety Investigation and Notification
4.6.1 Health and Safety Investigation [FIR, 6.01 (1)]
The importer must investigate any information that questions the safety of their product(s).
You must immediately investigate any complaints and information received questioning the safety of a product. Complaints and information received are deemed valid if through the investigation you determine:
- you have or may have imported the product in question; and
- the complaint or information concerns a real or potential illness or injury.
4.6.2 Health and Safety Notification [FIR, 6.01 (2)]
The importer must notify the CFIA within 24 hours of a confirmed health and safety issue.
Once you confirm that a product you imported may or has caused illness or injury, you must notify the CFIA as soon as possible within 24 hours.
For a list of after hours contact numbers and emergency response references, see the Food Recall and Emergency Response website.
4.7 Records [FIR, 4. (1) (b)]
4.7.1 Record Location and Retention Time [FIR, 6.1 (3)]
The importer must maintain records in English or French at an address in Canada for a period of three years minimum.
The importer must advise the CFIA of the location in Canada where their records are maintained. Records as described in Sections 4.7.2, 4.7.3 and 4.7.4 can be audited by the CFIA at any time and must be available upon request at an address in Canada.
4.7.2 Product Distribution Records [FIR, 6.1 (3) (a), (b), and (b.1)]
The importer must maintain product distribution records.
Distribution records of all your sales must include enough details so buyers can be contacted in the event of a recall and must include the date the product was shipped.
4.7.3 Product Complaint Records [FIR, 6.1 (3) (a), (b), and (b.1)]
The importer must maintain a complaint file for recall purposes.
You must record any complaint that you receive and include the following:
- the date, and time when the complaint was received
- details of the complaint
- name, address, and telephone number of the complainant
- steps taken by you to verify the validity of the complaint, the results and the corrective actions taken
- the date and time when CFIA was notified (see Section 4.6.2)
For more information on distribution records, and complaint file requirements, visit the Food Recall and Emergency Response - Importers' Recall Plan.
4.7.4 Process Control Documents [FIR, 6.1 (3) (c), and (d)]
The importer must have records of process control documents for each type of canned and ready-to-eat fish product. The information contained in the process control documents must be technically sound, based on good science, and contain all the information on how the safety of the product is achieved and maintained.
The Process control documents must include the following information:
- name, address, and contact information of the process authority or technically competent person who developed the process; and
- product and process description which includes specific technical information demonstrating that the product was adequately processed and would remain safe for its entire shelf life, and for canned products the F0 value; and
- a written statement signed by the process authority or technically competent person attesting that the described process will produce a commercially sterile and/or safe fish product.
For further details, please refer to the Guide - Process Control Technical Information.
- obtain process control documents for each type of canned and ready-to-eat fish products:
- for the first imported shipment of canned and ready-to-eat fish products; and
- whenever there is a change to the process, product, and/or foreign producer
- ensure process control documents come from the foreign producer
- ensure that the up-to-date process control documents are available and on file at the time of importation
You are responsible for taking appropriate affirmative actions to only source product from producers that are able to provide assurances that the product meets all Canadian regulatory requirements.
4.8 Fish Program Updates
The importer is responsible for keeping up-to-date on the requirements of importing fish and seafood products.
All updates for the fish program will be delivered electronically through the CFIA's Email Notification Services. It is recommended that you sign up for this service.
Appendix A - Forms
- A.1 Application for a Fish Import Licence (CFIA/ACIA 5587)
- A.2 Application for Credit (CFIA/ACIA 0015)
- A.3 Fish Import Notification (CFIA/ACIA 5588) / Instructions
- A.4 Import Products Destined for Further Processing in Federally Registered Establishments (CFIA/ACIA 5608)
- A.5 Reinspection Form
- A.6 Permission to Move Under Detention, PDF (41 kb)
- A.7 Disposition of Rejected Goods
Appendix B - References
- Industry Labelling Tool
- Nutrition Labelling
- Guide to Permitted Additives in Fish and Fish Products
- CFIA Fish List
- Bacteriological Guidelines for Fish and Fish Products
- Canadian Guidelines for Chemical Contaminants and Toxins in Fish and Fish Products
- Appendix 1 (A) - CFIA Aquaculture Therapeutant Residue Monitoring List
- Fish Products Standards and Methods Manual
- Questions and Answers - Fish Import Program
- Product Inspection of Imported Fish
- Guide - Process Control Technical Information
- Guidelines on measures to control the risk of Vibrio parahaemolyticus in live oysters
- Date modified: