Saudi Arabia has temporarily banned import of live fish from Ireland

Ban imposed after health warning which noted cases of ‘crayfish plague’ in Ireland

The government of Saudi Arabia has temporarily banned the import of live fish from Ireland.

The Saudi Arabian ministry of environment, water and agriculture imposed the ban on the back of a warning by the World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) which noted the presence of cases of a “crayfish plague” in Ireland.

According to a statement from the Saudi Arabian ministry, the ban has been publicised and “all precautionary measures have been applied to prevent diseases”.

In May of this year a crayfish plague outbreak was reported in the river Suir at Clonmel, Co Tipperary. Large numbers of dead crayfish were found at riverbanks between Clonmel and Carrick-on-Suir. While the disease only affects the crayfish species, it is 100 per cent fatal if contracted by the fish.


The Clonmel plague comes after a crayfish plague in Co Cavan in 2015. That incident was successfully contained, and did not spread to other Irish rivers or waterways.

A report issued by the OIE on July 10th reported that the Clonmel issue had been resolved.

Irish Embassy

Ireland's Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine was not aware of the ban when initially contacted by The Irish Times, and neither was Ireland's Embassy in Riyadh.

A department spokesman said Ireland does not currently export any fish or fish products to Saudi Arabia, and the Irish Embassy was not aware of any products coming in from other countries in the region.

Ireland does, however, export fish to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). While it is unclear whether fish exported to the UAE is being brought into Saudi Arabia, it is a possibility, a spokesman for the department said.

Fish exports from Ireland do not form a hugely substantial part of external trade volumes. In 2016 we exported €554 million worth of fish products worldwide, according to the Central Statistics Office. Meat product exports were worth €3.59 billion in the same period.

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton

Peter Hamilton is a contributor to The Irish Times specialising in business