The Sea Fish Industry Authority has countered critics with a root-and-branch revamp that it says will mean it delivering an improved and more responsive service to the industry.

In the wake of the Defra review in which a few levy payers said they derived no benefit from Seafish, and then extensive consultation by the authority, chief executive John Rutherford says he is hugely encouraged by now receiving "broad endorsement" for its work.

He said he was determined to get on with the job of improving Seafish without waiting for further feedback from the fisheries ministers and Defra.

We wanted just to get on and do it," said Rutherford. "I am confident that we will receive formal approval from government in the fullness of time."

To release more funds for a "more flexible, responsible and transparent service", staff are being cut back, with some 20 jobs going out of a staff of 115.
Rutherford stressed that most were taking voluntary redundancy. The compulsory levy remains unchanged. Large levy payers fork out more than £100,000 a year.

Most respondents to the Defra review saw a continuing role for Seafish, but many wanted a refinement of its role. However, six levy payers called for its abolition, and resented the compulsory levy.

At that time Lyons Seafoods was typical of the harsher critics: "There is no raison d&'être for the levy on imports other than an unfair additional tax," it told Defra. However Lyons MD Ole Norgaard has now joined the Seafish board.

Seafish chief executive John Rutherford said the authority would concentrate on generating and gathering knowledge, then delivering that to support a more sustainable and profitable industry: "We are preparing new ways of delivering projects and services. "

Icelandic UK MD Magni Thor Geirsson told The Grocer that he had been pleased to be consulted. "I am sure there are good people there but the money needs to be used much more to support the clients and perhaps even more activities promoting to the consumer."
Kit Davies