Our shopping habits are changing because of Covid-19 and many more people are buying fish online, without always visiting a shop to choose the particular fish they want.

One thing that has not changed is the law that covers the transport of live animals – in this case fish – which is covered by the Welfare of Animals in Transportation (WATO) regulation that applies across the UK.

This means that any courier service that takes the fish from the shop to the customer needs to be authorised to carry live animals. They must comply with the rules around transporting live animals outlined in the WATO regulation, which include having a contingency plan for what happens if the customer is not in to receive the animals and covers certain issues around ventilation etc in the vans (although fish are exempt from this because of the way that they are packed for transportation).

Royal Mail or Parcelforce are not authorised to carry live animals – including fish. See Royal Mail’s website on prohibited items – look for live animals.

If you have started to use a courier service to supply fish to your customers then you must make sure they are authorised to carry live animals and we would suggest they have a Type 2 authorisation.  It’s not difficult for courier services to become authorised and our office is happy to put you in touch with the right team to help them achieve this. One thing worth checking is that if a transporter holds a Type 2 Transporter Authorisation in another EU Member State this is also valid in Great Britain under the Council Regulation (EC) 1/2005, which is Europe wide. This might potentially be reviewed once we leave the European Union.

If your shop has started to deliver fish to your customers you can do this without an authorisation, provided the journey is less than 65km (about 40 miles) and takes no longer than 8 hours for the total journey time you are on the road delivering to all customers. But if you use a third party delivery service (eg couriers) even if the journey is below 65km they need to be authorised.

Regardless of which way you do it, you need to get confirmation from your customer that they will be in to take delivery of the parcel, it can’t be left somewhere. To find out more about what you need to do to sell fish online and deliver to your customers read our Online Selling Guide and check out the WATO guidance here.