Catfish are classed as an alien species in the UK as part of the Import of live fish act (ILFA) 1980 and listed under section 9 of the Wildlife and countryside act 1981 and such are subject of the controls described below.
If you are interested in stocking wels catfish to your water, we would advise in the first instance contacting your local EA fisheries officer (call the EA NCC on 0370 850 6506 to find them). He/she will usually conduct a site visit to initially assess the risk your fishery poses to catfish escaping into the wild. Without EA support its unlikely your application for a licence will be accepted so it’s important to get them onside from the start.
In summary waters that are situated on a flood plain, are on-line i.e. have an inlet and outlet into a natural water course will not be granted permission to stock wels catfish. Inlets can sometime be screened in such a way that a licence will still be approved, even SSSI waters can still be granted a licence, your EA officer will advise you on the likelihood of you being granted a licence.
The application for a licence itself is done via CEFAS and DEFRA with the latter ultimately making the decision after taking advice from both CEFAS and the EA. The licence will be issued by DEFRA. This link will explain this in a little more detail and also has links to the application form itself.
Once awarded a licence please pay close attention to any conditions attached to it, and challenge them at this point rather than at a later date. Common points are restrictions on initial or future stockings, size of fish to be stocked, numbers of fish to be stocked, maintenance to screenings.
You will still need to complete the usual process for fish movements with the EA as you would with any fish. Note the section 30 process was retired in Jan 2015, and replaced with the new permit system. You must ensure your fishery is registered and you have a permit that covers the movement of any fish you plan to stock. It’s unlikely you will receive a health certificate with any wels catfish stocking. Call the EA on 01480 483968 for advice on the new process or just follow this link.
The CCG holds a list of waters that controlling clubs regularly remove catfish from, and we are always looking for new or existing waters to re-home these fish to. The EA also regularly contact us to re-home unwanted catfish that turn up in nettings. We can also arrange delivery of them (at cost) if transport is an issue. Sometimes these fish are free, sometimes the fishery involved charge for them. Either way they are a great way of stocking your waters as there are very few fish farmers and dealers supplying catfish these days since the main one, Humberside Fisheries closed its doors in 2013.
If you think the CCG can help you remove unwanted catfish or help you find catfish to stock into your fishery please email Richard Clarke who co-ordinates this activity on behalf of the group or call him on 07766 920072. The group also has a licenced holding facility in Yorkshire and can take small numbers of fish at short notice and then move them on to legal homes in due course.