Critics have called for the abolition of levy body the Sea Fish Industry Authority amid accusations that it harbours a domestic bias.
Several levy payers who import fish have told a review of Seafish that they believe the levy is skewed towards supporting the UK fleet. Three quarters of Seafish’s levy comes from imports. However, 40% of its spend goes towards direct benefits for the UK-caught sector, according to the review, though Seafish claims it is 30%.
The review for Defra found that the substantial majority of respondents thought there was a continuing role for the
body. However, “mixed feelings were particularly marked among levy payers”, of whom there were 14 among respondents. Six were opposed outright to the continuation of Seafish. Five called for substantial change.
Royal Greenland, for example, told the review: “For a large levy payer, we do not believe we get value for money.” Lyons Seafoods said: “There is no raison d’être for the levy on imports other than an unfair additional tax on our industry.”
The authors of the review claim Seafish is “uncomfortably caught between meeting the needs of the UK fishing industry, and providing a service to the wider seafood industry.
“Seafish and its sponsor departments need to develop an agreed statement of where the industry’s common interests lie.”
They also suggest that the body covers farmed salmon, though this is opposed by the salmon lobby (see below).
Also proposed is that the levy should be applied to imported canned and bottled fish, though this latter proposal is disliked by the fisheries departments.
The departments, in their response to the review, agree that Seafish should better address the needs of the whole seafood industry and should be more accountable. A second consultation ends on May 5.
Kit Davies