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Importing Shrimp into the U.S.

Importing Shrimp into the U.S.
Protecting the nation’s food supply is a heavy lift to ensure everything is safe. When it comes to importing shrimp and other seafood into the U.S. is highly regulated to maintain safe sources. We share tips to help the process.
USA Customs Clearance
June 11, 2020
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Last Modified: December 29, 2021

If you’re in the business of importing shrimp into the U.S., then you know it isn’t exactly smooth sailing. Importing foods of any type comes with a long list of regulations that you need to abide by, but seafood in particular is even more strictly regulated. With so many responsibilities, it is easy to get overwhelmed. 

Importing shrimp into the U.S. requires complying with FDA, FSIS, and NMFS regulations. These regulations are in addition to the standard customs clearance requirements. A customs broker can help you navigate these complicated regulations. 

This is where USA Customs Clearance, powered by AFC International, comes in. Our experienced importing professionals and licensed customs brokers can take some of that responsibility off your shoulders and get your shrimp into the U.S. in no time! If you need help importing shrimp into the U.S. consider scheduling a customs consulting session with our experts. We’ll answer all of your questions and provide you with the vital information that you need.

Don't Import Shrimp On Your Own

Shrimp is highly regulated by customs agents. Get help from our shrimp importing specialists to ensure your shrimp is imported safely.

Which Government Agencies Regulate the Import of Shrimp?

The primary government agency that you’re going to need to be aware of when importing anything into the U.S. is Customs and Border Protection (CBP). CBP is responsible for protecting the U.S. border by regulating and inspecting shipments to prevent anything illegal or dangerous from coming into the country. This agency also has the legal authority to enforce the rules of all other government agencies that regulate any given shipment. In the case of shrimp, those other agencies are the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS), and the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS)

The FDA is an agency under the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that ensures all foreign food coming into the U.S. is safe, sanitary, and legal. To achieve this, they issue a range of requirements from different registrations, inspections, and paperwork to ensure that imports are compliant with U.S. food safety laws. 

The FSIS is an agency under the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) that ensures all meat, poultry, and egg products entering the U.S. market are safe and fit for consumption. This includes shellfish, like shrimp. They offer seafood inspection, label verification, and certification services. 

The NMFS is an agency under the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). It is the agency that protects endangered species, promotes sustainable fishing, and regulates the global trade of seafood. It protects against illegal, unregulated, and unreported fishing techniques and seafood-related fraud. The agency also requires adequate recordkeeping to ensure that all shrimp coming into the U.S. can be traced all the way back to their primary suppliers.

These agencies must work together to ensure the safe, sanitary, sustainable, and legal transport of seafood products from around the world. 

Regulations for Importing Shrimp into the U.S.

Regulations for Importing Shrimp into the U.S.

As you can probably imagine, there are many regulations involved with importing shellfish, like shrimp, into the U.S. Before you can get started, you’ll need to be familiar with several different programs and regulations, such as:

  • Imported Food Safety Program
  • Prior Notice
  • Seafood Import Monitoring Program
  • Customs Clearance
  • Voluntary Qualified Importer Program

The regulations are far from straightforward, and with so many different things you need to be aware of, it’s understandable if you’re feeling a bit overwhelmed already. If you need some personalized consulting to get through this process, then USA Customs Clearance has what you need! We offer import consulting services with importing professionals or licensed customs brokers, depending on the level of expertise you require. You don’t have to feel like you need to tackle this process alone—we’ll be by your side, ready to answer any questions you have and assist in any way we can.  

Don't Import Shrimp On Your Own

Shrimp is highly regulated by customs agents. Get help from our shrimp importing specialists to ensure your shrimp is imported safely.

What is the FDA’s Imported Seafood Safety Program?

The FDA’s Imported Seafood Safety Program was designed to provide information to importers about all the safety regulations that apply to seafood shipments. The program provides guidance on the process to keep importers informed, and even covers regulations imposed by NMFS. These agencies work together to achieve their common goal of ensuring all seafood entering the United States is safe, sanitary, and properly labeled. 

This cooperation led to the formation of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). As a result of that MOU, the FDA can provide regulatory guidance on behalf of the NMFS. In addition to providing information to importers, however, this program also encompasses informing consumers, industries, and governments about seafood safety, and the regulations that contribute to a safe and sanitary seafood supply chain. 

What is FDA Prior Notice?

What is FDA Prior Notice

Declaring prior notice is an important part of importing shrimp into the U.S., but what exactly does that mean, and why is it so important? 

The requirement to declare prior notice for seafood shipments began in 2002 with the Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act (known simply as the “Bioterrorism Act”). The reason this is important is that this regulation allows the CBP to properly prepare for, and scrutinize, incoming shipments of food before they reach the port of entry. It allows the FDA and CBP to make more informed decisions about how to mitigate potential risks in the food supply chain. 

Thankfully, the FDA has made it simpler to file prior notice with the help of a new online interface. Previously, importers would have to file through the CBP’s Automated Broker Interface (ABI/ACE), and though that made it convenient to submit documents to both the CBP and FDA, the importer would have to file everything through the ABI in order to take advantage of that. Now, with the Prior Notice System Interface (PNSI), importers who choose not to file through the ABI, and still file their prior notice to the FDA on an interactive, online portal. 

How to Implement a HACCP Plan

A Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Points (HACCP) plan is a vital part of ensuring your shrimp shipment is compliant with sanitation and preparation requirements. 

There are 7 principles to any HACCP plan:

  1. Conducting an analysis of food safety hazards and identifying what measures need to be implemented to correct those risks
  2. Identifying critical control points in the process, which are any points, steps, or procedures in which a measure of control could eliminate or reduce health risks
  3. Establishing a minimum or maximum limit for each critical control point to keep hazards within a feasible range
  4. Establishing a process for monitoring the critical control point limits to ensure continued compliance
  5. Establishing what corrective actions should be utilized to correct mistakes in reporting, monitoring, and production to prevent products that don’t meet the critical limits from entering commerce
  6. Verifying the HACCP system is working as intended, and that the critical limits established are scientifically valid
  7. Establishing strict recordkeeping procedures for all parts of the process

Several of these tasks can be completed by your in-house staff, or you yourself. In fact, you are expected to draft and implement a HACCP plan on your own, but any inspections or verifications must be conducted by FSIS inspectors. If your plan is found to be flawed, you would be expected to correct it and request another inspection from FSIS. 

What is the Seafood Import Monitoring Program?

What is the Seafood Import Monitoring Program

The Seafood Import Monitoring Program (SIMP) is an additional regulation that applies to only 13 different types of fish or seafood products. The reason for this additional regulation is that those fish and seafood products are far more vulnerable to Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing and seafood fraud, according to the NMFS. 

Unfortunately, shrimp is one of the 13 imported fish and fish products that have been deemed particularly vulnerable to IUU and seafood fraud. So, what does that mean for you as an importer? 

SIMP is a risk-based traceability program that requires submitting additional documents to make it easier for Customs to verify the origin of the shipment. Those additional documents are:

  • HTSUS Codes: The Harmonized Tariff Schedule of the United States (HTSUS) code is an important method for identifying different products being shipped into the U.S. from overseas. It is required for all shipments, but it must also be included separately in this documentation for imports under SIMP regulation. 
  • Alpha Codes: There is more than one type of shrimp that you could be importing into the U.S., so you will need to include an Alpha Code to further specify exactly what you are importing. This is true for all of the species that fall under SIMP regulation, and not just shrimp. 
  • Model Catch Certificate: This is a document in which the circumstances of a harvest are recorded, both for wild-capture and aquaculture farmed fish. This ensures that the location of the harvest, and every place or route in which the fish traveled, can be traced back all the way through the supply chain. 
  • Model Aggregated Catch Certificate: This is a certificate that is very similar to the one above, and can be used in its place for small-scale harvests. 

Although that is a bit of extra work for you, it is worth it to ensure fair and sustainable fishing, and protections for the national and global economies. If you need some extra help navigating these additional requirements, USA Customs Clearance, powered by AFC International, can be your trusted partner. We are familiar with the process of importing just about anything, and we can walk you through the process and answer any questions you might have.

Clearing Customs when Importing Shrimp into the U.S.

There are some regulations involved with importing that apply no matter what it is you’re trying to bring into the country. CBP closely monitors what comes in and out of the U.S. to ensure the safety of our national economy, protect against acts of terrorism, and facilitate fair and legitimate global trade. These regulations exist to make that job easier for the U.S. Customs Agents, but they can be a real pain to deal with for importers. 

All shipments being imported into the U.S. must be accompanied by the following documents: 

In addition to that, you will probably also need something called a “customs bond,” which is a type of insurance agreement that is required for all commercial shipments, or personal shipments valued at more than $2,500. This document is an agreement established between the shipper, the CBP, and a third-party surety company that ensures that the CBP gets paid for all applicable duties and taxes, regardless of any unexpected circumstances. Even if the shipper declares bankruptcy mid-import or is otherwise unable to pay the customs fees, CBP still gets paid the applicable dues—just by the surety company instead.  

Lucky for you, USA Customs Clearance, powered by AFC International, can provide you with a customs bond with lightning fast approval, so you can get your shipment moving as soon as possible. 

Go ahead and buy a customs bond today

and get your freight on the way around the globe.

Utilizing a Customs Broker to Comply with Regulations

Utilizing a Customs Broker to Comply with Regulations

Unfortunately, even if you fill in all the right paperwork correctly and submit everything on-time, there’s still a chance that your shipment will get selected for inspection. Importing shrimp into the U.S. is a tremendously complicated process, and even the smallest mistakes can look like a red flag to customs agents. 

If your shipment gets selected for inspection—or worse, seized—then you could expect serious delays. When dealing with a perishable commodity like shrimp, even short delays can devastate your bottom line revenue and potentially even ruin the entire shipment. You need to do everything in your power to prevent something like that happening. 

Although there isn’t a way to 100% guarantee that customs won’t randomly select your shipment, there is a way of reducing your likelihood of having your shipment targeted. Working with a customs broker can make things a lot easier for you, and they can ensure that everything is done right the first time. They can even file paperwork on your behalf, communicate with customs about your shipment, and advocate for your shipment’s release if it is held in customs. 

Customs brokers with USA Customs Clearance, powered by AFC International, are experts at importing into the U.S. With thousands of successful imports behind us, there’s nothing we haven’t seen. If you want peace of mind when importing shrimp into the U.S., then you can count on us!

How to Speed Up the Process of Importing Shrimp 

If you tend to import into the U.S. frequently, you’re probably pretty tired of the long wait times and occasional delays on your shrimp shipments. Lucky for you, there’s another option for speeding up the process—as long as you don’t mind dealing with some added fees. 

The FDA offers importers the option to become part of the Voluntary Qualified Importer Program (VQIP), which is an optional, fee-based program that expedites the process of getting your shipment reviewed to speed up importation. In order to qualify, you would need to have a good reputation for maintaining control over the safety and security of your supply chain, and have a history of successful, legitimate imports. You would also need to ensure your shrimp supply is coming from a facility that is registered with the FDA and certified as being sanitary and safe. 

By proving the VQIP as an option for importers, that allows the FDA and CBP to focus their attentions on food shipments that pose a higher risk to public health, while you get to benefit from having your shipments move through the port of entry at lightning speed. 

One of the many benefits of utilizing a good customs broker is that you can rely on their reputation to qualify for this program. Because customs brokers become the importer of record when they assist with your shipment, that means their reputation is more important than yours, since they will be making the decisions. Customs brokers often have the best importing record that anyone could hope for, and many of them have been importing for several years, giving them the reliable reputation required for the VQIP. Some customs brokers may already be part of the program. 

Importing Shrimp into the U.S. with USA Customs Clearance

If importing shrimp into the U.S. is on your agenda, rely on USA Customs Clearance to be your global trade partner. Our licensed customs brokers and team of importing professionals can help you get your shipments to the border, through customs, and en-route to their domestic destination in the blink of an eye! No matter what you need help with, whether it’s importing face masks or understanding customs examinations, we can provide you with the world-class service you need to be successful. 

If you’re ready to start importing shrimp into the U.S., reach out to us at (855) 912-0406 to discuss consulting options, or to get in touch with a customs broker today!

Don't Import Shrimp On Your Own

Shrimp is highly regulated by customs agents. Get help from our shrimp importing specialists to ensure your shrimp is imported safely.

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3 comments on “Importing Shrimp into the U.S.”

  1. Hello how can you make my life easier? I'm importing shrimp from Vietnam. How can you insure me that all will go well and what I need to do to make sure all is well on my side


  2. we are manufacturer of processed shrimp related food in China. we would like to export to US importor for US market, would you please share some information for us? what is the required document and condition and what regulation we need to follow as a supplier.

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