Importing biological samples into the UK

All biological samples derived from BAS southern operations are returned to the UK on BAS vessels. In most cases, these samples must be transported under licence. Biological samples may not be returned by air freight or hand-carried. BAS has a legal responsibility to ensure that the importation complies with the regulatory authorities. Any questions regarding the importation of biological samples back into the UK should be discussed with Dr Elaine Fitzcharles in the first instance: no later than 9th May 2016 for the 2016/17 field season.

Biological import licences

BAS currently applies for six different biological import licences/authorisations:

PHL — Plants: Plant Health Order (2005) (Defra).

Licence to import, move and keep prohibited plants (including seeds) – plants must be washed free from any growing medium.

PHL — Soil: Plant Health Order (2005) (Defra)

Licence to import, move and keep prohibited soil and sediment separately or associated with other living organic material. (Other than for chemical or physical analysis)


Preserved samples / products of listed endangered species, such as whale or fur seal.


Live marine macro invertebrates (BAS transport aquarium only).


Importation of Animal Pathogens Order (1980) / Animal Health Act (1981) (Defra) Animal Pathogens (animal tissue, blood, etc.)


Products of Animal Origin (England) (2005) / Animal Health Act (1980) (Defra). Preserved samples / products of animal origin, including fishery products and marine invertebrates.

BAS will assume responsibility for the licensing arrangements required to import all biological samples returned from Antarctica to BAS Cambridge. The Principal Investigator for each project will be responsible for:

  1. Ensuring that BAS is given the information needed to make the licence applications in timely fashion, and to ensure that the biological material will be transferred to laboratories/institutions that hold the appropriate licence(s).
  2. Ensuring that a photocopy of the relevant Institution/Departmental licence(s) is sent to the Antarctic Funding Office (email: before the start of the field season at the latest. Any Institution to which the samples will be transferred from BAS must hold the appropriate licence (e. g. Defra or CITES). Under the Research Import Licence terms, BAS is required to submit, to Defra, details of preserved samples of animal origin that have received authorised exemption from veterinary inspection at point of import and will be transferred to external organisations.
  3. Liaising with the relevant BAS licence holder or signatory, to discuss requirements. This should occur no later than 31st May 2019 for the 2019/2020 field season. Contact should be established via the Antarctic Funding Office.
  4. Ensuring that the leading field scientist for each project prepares a detailed and accurate listing of the project sample collection, on completion of fieldwork. The list must be submitted to the relevant BAS Field Assistant (e.g. Terrestrial Assistant) and the Base Commander, before the scientist who carried out fieldwork leaves the Antarctic, or before the BAS ship reaches the Falkland Islands, if samples have been collected. In any case, an interim report must be prepared before the end of March.
  5. Making the arrangements for collection of the samples from BAS Cambridge at the end of the field season.

If the required information is not provided, or is incomplete, then samples will not be exported from the Antarctic.

Importing animal pathogens

Special licence condition applying to importation of animal pathogens:

  1. Staff having contact with the imported material must not have contact with domestic poultry for at least 48 hours afterwards. Staff having contact with the imported material must give a written undertaking to this effect.
  2. The above condition must be incorporated in the Risk Assessment that staff must sign before handling animal materials and their derivatives stored at BAS.