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Industry feedback found that the levy from the public body needed to be fairer and more equitable 

Seafish has published updated proposed changes to its levy, in response to an informal consultation earlier this year.

Industry feedback found that the levy from the public body needed to be fairer and more equitable. 

The proposed changes were designed to ensure Seafish could continue its current support for the industry and increase it when the sector needed it most, it said.

The last levy change was almost 25 years ago and had contributed to a reduction in Seafish’s spending power of almost 55%, the organisation said.

The Seafish board held an informal consultation on the proposed levy changes with the seafood industry earlier this year. Following this, it has published a full response with some revisions to the proposed changes to the levy.

The revised proposals include a reduction in levy increase on pelagic species, cockles, whelks and mussels from 1p per kg to 0.5p per kg. The levy increase for pelagic species, cockles and mussels would be phased in over three years, it said.

Other proposals include a levy on imported canned and bottled fish, which are currently excluded even for those containing levy species. An inflationary adjustment of 2% each year would be implemented to ensure levy value does not decrease in value over time.

Seafish has also proposed introducing a minimum levy threshold of £100 per year, meaning businesses would not pay if levy due was below £100. It is estimated 22% of businesses that currently pay the Seafish levy would benefit from this, it said.

Salmon, trout and other freshwater farmed species have been proposed to remain out of the scope of the levy review as they are explicitly excluded in the 1981 Fisheries Act.

The proposal will form the basis of a formal consultation on the Seafish levy in 2024, when the seafood industry will have another opportunity to provide feedback.

Seafish currently takes £7.2m per year in levy, but needed an income of £9.1m per year to maintain existing services in the future, it said.

An annual income of £11m per year would provide additional funds to deliver extra support in areas identified as priorities during the Strategic Review of Seafish in 2021.

The extra levy would help to fund additional expertise to help businesses respond to climate change, as well as emerging issues and on the ground fishing safety advisors.

It will also offer greater capability to support businesses tackling labour issues, more international trade shows, a fully funded fisheries management team and more capacity to proactively support the industry in challenging misinformation, along with other support.

“During our recent Strategic Review, the seafood industry told us they wanted a fairer and more equitable Seafish levy system,” said Seafish chair Mike Sheldon. “The industry also told us it needed our support more than ever to deal with the challenges and pressures they face and to help them to thrive into the future.”

Once the formal consultation has concluded, ministers will make the final decisions on changes to the Seafish levy.

The levy is paid on the first sale of seafood in the UK and different species pay different rates.

“We at Whitby Seafoods really value the support provided to us and our wider industry by Seafish and understand that after almost 25 years the levy needs to be reviewed,” said Laura Whittle, sales & marketing director at Whitby Seafoods.

“As we navigate the current and various challenges presented, the information they provide us with is very valuable to our decision-making and business planning.”