Imported Fish and Seafood Products Regulation

Fish and seafood products imported into Canada are inspected to prevent the marketing of unsafe, unwholesome or mislabeled products.

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) regulates over 1,000 fish and seafood importers. Under the CFIA’s Fish Import Inspection Program, importers of fish and seafood for commercial sale must hold either a Fish Import License or a Quality Management Program Import License from the CFIA. Importers are responsible for ensuring that their products meet Canadian regulatory requirements including the food safety standards established by Health Canada. Non-compliant shipments are not permitted for sale within Canada.

All licensed fish importers must meet the following requirements:

  • Importers are required to make every shipment available for inspection prior to distribution and sale in Canada;
  • Importers are required to notify the CFIA of every import shipment within 48 hours;
  • Importers are obligated to keep accurate and complete records of imported shipments so that shipments can be easily traced; and
  • Importers must obtain information on the manufacturing processes and controls used in the production of all ready to eat and canned products which they import.


Additionally, importers holding a Quality Management Program Import (QMPI) license must meet the following requirements:

  • Importers must develop an acceptable quality management system demonstrating how they will meet, as a minimum, the product inspection frequencies, methods and standards set by CFIA.
  • Once accepted by the CFIA, the importers must implement and comply with their written QMPI.
  • The importers must forward all product inspection results to the CFIA.


The CFIA audits and inspects importers to ensure that they are meeting the conditions of their license. The CFIA uses a risk-based approach to determine the frequency at which to inspect imported product. The frequency varies based on food safety risk, the history of compliance of a particular product, the history of compliance of the processor, and the country of origin of the product. Health Canada carries out risk assessments on specific products and the Agency is responsible for enforcing chemical contaminant guidelines set by Health Canada.

Fish and seafood products imported from processors who have never shipped products to Canada are inspected at a rate of 100%, meaning that a representative sample of fish is taken and tested from each first shipment.

The frequency of inspection for imported products with a history of compliance ranges from 2% of all shipments for non-health and safety analysis such as label analysis, up to 5% for health and safety analysis such as mercury and drug residue analysis. This risk-based approach results in a high rate of confidence in the compliance level and safety of imported products.

If a shipment fails to meet Canadian regulatory requirements, and the product cannot be brought into compliance by the importer, the entire shipment is removed from Canada or destroyed. In addition, the foreign processor is put on CFIA’s Import Alert List and incoming products are inspected at a rate of 100% until four consecutive shipments comply with Canadian requirements.

If the CFIA identifies products that were not appropriately dealt with by an importer, enforcement action is taken which may include recalling the product from the market, revocation of the import license and/or prosecution under the Fish Inspection Act and Regulations and/or Food and Drug Act and Regulations.

For more information, please visit the Canadian Food Inspection Agency Web site.