Shock as Seafish lose fish levy appeal19 March, 2010 –
THE entire UK seafood processing industry was celebrating today after it was announced that the British Seafood group had won its appeal against paying a levy to Seafish on imported fish.
The group, which was placed in administration last month, lost its case against Seafish last summer over its refusal to pay around £2-million in back levies. It immediately launched an appeal which the High Court allowed in a near sensational judgement yesterday.
Bluntly, the ruling means that the Seafish Industry Authority can no longer legally impose any levy – money which it needs to finance its activities – on fish landed overseas and then imported into the UK.
If this ruling is not overturned on further appeal, it could potentially save Britain’s fish processing industry millions of pounds a year because most of the cod and haddock and other white fish is imported from areas like Iceland, Norway, the Faroe islands and the Baltic. Tuna, sea bass and all exotic species, of course, are also imported. The larger the company, like Young’s for example, the greater the saving.
Steve Norton, chief executive of the Grimsby Fish Merchants Association, told Fishupdate: “I need to study the full judgement before I comment in detail , but clearly there are going to be a lot of happy faces in our industry today. There are going to be some very big savings for seafood processors, if this stands.”
A spokesperson for Deloitte, British Seafood’s administrators, said they were still studying the judgment, but it was unlikely to affect the group’s current situation.
In part of the ruling Lord Justice Richards said: ” In my view, the first sale of a sea fish after it has been landed in the United Kingdom cannot be treated as the same marketing stage as the sale of a sea fish product processed from sea fish landed elsewhere and imported into the United Kingdom, even though each sale happens to be the point at which the fish or fish product in question enters the United Kingdom supply chain.
” In order to determine whether the same charges are imposed at the same marketing stage on similar domestic products, it is necessary to consider the point at which similar domestic products are sold, rather than the point at which fish or fish products from which they have been processed are sold. For the reasons given, I would allow the companies appeal. “
Two other judges sitting on the case, Lord Justice Rimer and Lord Justice Mummery, said they agreed with the judgement.