Zebrafish shipments require special packaging to provide a controlled environment for fish while in transit and careful documentation to ensure expedient delivery. Because customs, animal welfare and biosafety regulations, vary from country to country, international shipments may require modifications of the labeling and documentation provided below. Packaging, however, must always conform to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) Live animal Regulations (LAR, container requirement 51; https://www.iata.org/whatwedo/cargo/live-animals/pages/index.aspx). International shipments should be sent Mondays or Fridays to allow time for customs and veterinary inspection clearances (1-3 days) and avoid weekend delivery. When shipping embryos, these should be bleached before packaging. For a detailed bleaching protocol see the link: Customer_Egg_Bleaching.pdf
The paperwork for standard international distribution may vary due to country-specific requirements for customs and health declarations/certifications. In addition, many of these processes are still being developed between countries and information may be outdated or inaccurate. However, most international shipments must be accompanied by at least the following documents:
ZIRC provides templates of documents 1. – 4. upon request and on its site: http://zebrafish.org/documents/protocols.php. These documents should be copied onto your institute’s official letterhead.
If a USDA endorsed Health Certificate is required, information can be obtained from the Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) at the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA): (http://www.aphis.usda.gov/regulations/vs/iregs/animals/). It is a good idea to get in touch with your USDA Area Office to ensure the appropriate steps are taken. Select the country of destination in the pull-down menu on the iRegs site. The guidelines detailed by USDA/APHIS and the receiving country must be met in order to obtain a USDA endorsed health certificate for export. Download the appropriate form for aquatic species and all supporting documents for the country of destination. If the country specific form is not available, the USDA’s APHIS Form 7001 must be used: http://www.aphis.usda.gov/library/forms/pdf/APHIS7001.pdf
If a country requires certification that the exporting facility is free of a specific OIE reportable pathogen you should contact the USDA Area Office. In this case a USDA Veterinary Medical Officer may need to schedule sampling and diagnostic testing of fish and possibly conduct a facility inspection.
Complete the health certificate for the shipment and add additional information as specified on the import permit. Note: this is a reciprocal process - the USDA will only issue a Health Certificate endorsement if a copy of the import permit from the recipient country is available, to ensure all country-specific information is provided. A USDA accredited veterinarian must sign and date the health certificate (or Form 7001), which then must be endorsed by the USDA/APHIS. To this end, mail the form to your local USDA Area Office with payment (currently $38).
Importantly, the health certificate is only valid for 30 days, and the importing country may limit shipment to a shorter time frame. The sender has to ensure that the shipment occurs before the earlier of the two dates expires. Hence it is important to schedule steps carefully and have a good working relationship with your local USDA office.
When receiving a shipment of zebrafish from abroad, a custom declaration (Form 3-177) must be filed with the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). Visit the http://www.fws.gov/le/declaration-form-3-177.html site, download the four pages, fill in the form and file it with the appropriate office (see instructions). Alternatively, you may with eDecs, an electronic declaration system offered by USFWS. In this case, create a new personal account on the eDecs site https://edecs.fws.gov/eDecsHome.cfm, create an Importer/Exporter Account and a new eDec file, and file it electronically. For academic institutions filing must occur, but a license is not needed and the fees are waived.
Packaging of embryos and adults for shipping. A) Thick-walled Styrofoam box inside cardboard box, labeled as indicated in panel B). C) Adults are prepared in labeled breeding cages, embryos in labeled 250 ml flasks. D) Adults and their label are transferred to two leak-proof polyethylene bags and closed with plenty of air or oxygen. The Styrofoam box is partially filled with Styrofoam packing peanuts before the bag or flask is added (E,F). Completely filled Styrofoam box. Packing peanuts prevent movement of bag or flask. For the cold season or for cold-climate destinations, a hole is punched into the Styrofoam lid with a pencil or screwdriver to provide oxygen for a heat pack (H) which is taped to the lid over the hole. I) Address labels and pouch with shipping documents (Invoice, Customs statement, Copy of import permit, Health Declaration/Certification) are added in triplicate copy to the pouch.
Varga, Z.M. (2016) Aquaculture, husbandry, and shipping at the Zebrafish International Resource Center. Methods in Cell Biology. 135:509-34.
4th Edition (2000) Chapter 1.7 (online): http://zfin.org/zf_info/zfbook/chapt1/1.7.html
5th Edition (2007) Pages 1.24 - 1.39 (print): http://zebrafish.org/orders/buyBookQ.php?item=Book&id=book&detail=The%20Zebrafish%20Book