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Health Certificates for Aquatic Animal Exports from Florida
(Updated June 26, 2009)

Tropical Fish BoxesFeeling a little confused about getting health certificates done for aquatic animals?  You're not alone!  Many producers feel anxiety about getting health certificates done for aquatic animals, and there are several reasons for it.  What are the requirements?  Who inspects the animals?  Which form do you use?  What should the certificate say?  The following information is intended to help guide Florida ornamental aquatic animal or aquaculture producers through the health certification process.  A step-by-step "Quick Guide" is also listed below. Please note that it is the sole responsibility of the exporting shipper to determine what the requirements are for the state or country to which the animals are being shipped.

Interstate shipments (movements between US states):
Some states have special requirements for bringing aquatic animals in from other states.  Many of these regulations can be found at;  however, it is highly recommended that the shipper contact the State Veterinarian’s office in the destination state to make sure all the requirements are met. In some states, the state veterinarian is not the lead “agency” for fish health and other agencies may need to be consulted.

International shipments (movements between countries):
For international destinations, each country may have specific health requirements for the entry of aquatic animals.  These requirements are established by the importing country, not the United States.  Other countries may also have their own certificate format.  The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has on their international regulations site specific health requirements for different countries that have provided the USDA with their aquatic animal health regulations and requirements.  However, not all countries that have import requirements for aquatics may be listed on this site.  It is strongly recommended that exporters wanting to ship aquatic animals to countries whose requirements are not specifically described have the importer/buyer in the country of destination apply for an import permit at the appropriate ministry or animal health authority.  This import permit will most likely outline the specific requirements.

For additional information on export requirements, contact the Area Veterinarian-in-Charge (AVIC) who can help to provide information on current regulations, tests, and inspections that may be required. Because export requirements frequently change, obtain current export requirements from the USDA Veterinary Service area office before each shipment.  In Florida, the USDA area office is located in Gainesville.  The export document examiner can be contacted at 352-313-3071 or 352-313-3060.  Or contact Dr. Kathleen Hartman at 813-671-5230 x119

Additional international and interstate restrictions:
Be aware that states and countries may have restrictions on certain species.  Be sure to check if the animals being moved require a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (for example, CITES listed animals such as seahorses) or if a state has certain restrictions on animals (for example, injurious wildlife such as the walking catfish (family Clariidae)). 

Who inspects the fish?
USDA APHIS is the lead agency for the health certification of farm-raised ("aquacultured") aquatic animals.  Most importing countries require that a USDA-accredited veterinarian at least visually examine all (or a representative sample) of the animals being shipped.  (USDA-accredited veterinarians are private veterinarians who have special training to sign official USDA health certificates.)  Some countries require additional diagnostic tests for specific diseases. The extent of the veterinary inspection depends on the requirements established by the importing country, not the United States.  The veterinarian will usually charge for this service regardless of whether or not the shipment passes inspection.  It is, therefore, in the exporter’s best interest to be confident of the good health of the animals before scheduling an inspection.  (A two day fish health course geared toward fish production is offered at the Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory in the spring and fall of each year.  Check the calendar for upcoming courses.)  Plan ahead when scheduling a shipment requiring health certification to ensure that a USDA-accredited veterinarian and, if necessary, a USDA APHIS Veterinary Services official (see “Who has to sign the certificate?” below) are available to perform the inspection and endorse the documents, respectively. 

In the Tampa Bay area, the Tropical Aquaculture Lab has USDA-accredited veterinarians who can perform the necessary inspections for exportation of ornamental fish and aquatic invertebrates by Florida aquaculture producers.  To schedule an inspection, contact Dr. Roy Yanong at 813-671-5230 x104.  The lab charges $30 per health certificate when the inspection is conducted at the lab.  Additional charges will apply if the inspection is conducted off-site. 

For facilities located in the Gainesville area, contact Dr. Denise Petty at 352-273-3612.  You may also locate other aquatic animal health veterinarians near you by searching

Other federal agencies have jurisdiction over wild or feral freshwater and marine aquatic animals as well as seafood for human consumption.  For more information on who you should contact, please call Dr. Kathleen Hartman at 813-671-5230 x119.

Which form to use?
USDA forms that may be used as health certificates for aquatic animals are:

  • APHIS form 7001 (Certificate of Health Examination for Small Animals)

  • VS form 17-140 (United States Origin Health Certificate)

  • VS form 17-141 (Health Certificate for the Export of Live Finfish, Mollusks, and Crustaceans)

The USDA-accredited veterinarian will likely have most of these forms.  As with other official documents of this type, the certificate should be typewritten, accurate, complete and must be signed in a color different from the text.  Once the documents are signed, they must not be altered.

In addition to the forms listed above, the importing country may have specific forms that must be used.  Check with the appropriate import or animal health authority in the importing country for these required documents or online at the web sites listed above.

What should the certificate say?
If no specific requirements are listed or provided by the importing country or state, general statements may be printed or typed on the form by the accredited veterinarian. For shipments of ornamental species, the statement should say “ornamental” not tropical fish.  At a minimum, the number of animals and the common and scientific names of each should be listed on the form.

If the exporter would like to use a packing list instead of typing all of the species in the consignment on the USDA health certificate form, the packing list must:

  1. Not list any prices.

  2. Be on the letterhead of the accredited veterinarian.

  3. Identify the consignor and consignee.

  4. Identify the number of each type of animal being shipped as well as a total number of all animals for the consignment.

  5. List the associated health certificate number.

  6. List the facility's USDA registration number, if applicable.

  7. Be signed and dated by the accredited veterinarian.

The associated USDA health certificate form must list the total number of animals (should be the same as listed on the packing list) and the statement "see attached packing list".  Packing lists can only be endorsed by a USDA official if it is signed by the accredited veterinarian first.

Who has to sign the certificate?
USDA-accredited veterinarian
Health certificates for the export of aquatic animals are completed by a USDA-accredited veterinarian ("issuing veterinarian") who certifies animal health status by inspecting the shipment, collecting any specimens for diagnostic testing (as required by the importing country), and recording test results for the animals being exported.  The veterinarian will usually charge for this service regardless of whether or not the shipment passes inspection.

Endorsing federal veterinarian
In addition to the inspection and signature by the USDA-accredited veterinarian, some foreign countries require that exports from the United States be endorsed and stamped by a USDA APHIS Veterinary Services area official (“endorsing federal veterinarian”) in order to be valid.  For endorsement in Florida, certificates may be sent or taken in person to 1) USDA-APHIS-VS veterinarian Dr. Kathleen Hartman (813-671-5230 x119) located here at the Tropical Aquaculture Lab in Ruskin, 2) the USDA APHIS area office in Gainesville (contact Judy Moreno 352-313-3071) or 3) the USDA APHIS Miami Animal Import/Export Center (305-526-2926).  (If delivering the forms in person, please contact the appropriate office to schedule an appointment.  Walk-ins may be subject to wait.)  If diagnostic tests are required prior to shipment, the certificate and test results must be sent to the endorsing USDA official.  The current USDA user fee for endorsing a health certificate for aquatic animals is $34.00 and is due at the time of endorsement.  Cash cannot be accepted.  This fee is in addition to the USDA-accredited veterinarian’s fee.

Most health certificates are valid for 30 days once they have been signed by the issuing accredited veterinarian.  However, some countries and even some airlines have a shorter time frame that they will accept the certificates.  Also note that some certificates must be signed within 24, 48, or 72 hours of the animals being shipped.

Other Important Information:
Aquaculture facilities wishing to export live fish or fish eggs to countries belonging to the European Union (EU) must be registered with APHIS as an aquaculture facility prior to export.  (For a complete list of countries in the EU, visit  Facility registration is voluntary; however, it is required in order for APHIS to endorse health certificates being presented for fish being exported to the EU.  In order for a facility to be registered, the facility must have a valid veterinary-client-patient relationship with an USDA accredited veterinarian, and the facility must keep updated records on animal inventory, movement, suppliers, and health that are available for review by APHIS if needed.  Annual site visits by an APHIS representative are required.  These visits are subject to user fees.

For more information about the registration process and related fees, please contact Dr. Kathleen Hartman at 813-671-5230 x119 or via e-mail at

Quick Guide for Florida Exporters of Aquatic Animals

Step 1:

Determine from the importer what the health requirements are for the state or country to which the animals are being shipped.  As the shipper of the animals, it is YOUR responsibility to determine and understand what the importing country or state requires for entry of the animals you are shipping.  If you need help determining these requirements, you should consult your accredited veterinarian.  You may also contact the USDA area office (352-313-3071) or Dr. Kathleen Hartman (813-671-5230 x119) for additional help.

Step 2:

Obtain a health evaluation as directed by certificate requirements set by the importing state or country.  This evaluation may require the service of an USDA-accredited veterinarian who will perform a visual inspection and additional diagnostics, as required by the importing country, in order to fulfill requirements stated on the health certificate.

Step 3:

Have the USDA-accredited veterinarian complete and sign the health certificate.  It is recommended that the APHIS form 7001, VS 17-140, or VS 17-141 be used.  Check with the importing country as to what specific documents it requires.

Step 4:

If official endorsement is required, you or your veterinarian may take or send (via express mail with a self-address pre-paid envelope) the completed form(s) and a check (payable to USDA) for $34 per certificate to be endorsed to one of the offices listed below.  (If delivering the forms in person, please contact the office to schedule an appointment.)  If mailing the forms, the turn-around time may be 24 - 48 hours.

  • USDA APHIS Veterinary Services
    Export Document Examiner
    8100 NW 15th Place
    Gainesville, FL 32606  
    Phone:  352-313-3071
    Fax:  352-313-3061
  • Dr. Kathleen H. Hartman
    Aquaculture Epidemiologist
    USDA-APHIS Veterinary Services
    c/o University of Florida Tropical Aquaculture Laboratory
    1408 24th Street, S.E.
    Ruskin, FL 33570
    Phone: 813-671-5230 x119
    Fax:  813-671-5234
  • Miami Animal Import/Export Center
    USDA APHIS Veterinarian Services
    6300 NW 36th Street
    Miami, FL  33122
    Phone:  305-526-2926
    Fax:  305-526-2929

Step 5:

Most certificates are good for 30 days; however, some may be more restrictive, so make sure the shipment arrives at its final destination before the expiration of the certificate.

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Last updated October 02, 2012.
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