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Seafish Judgement Shocks Industry

UK - The High Court has ruled that fish and seafood landed abroad and imported into the UK should not be subject to the normal Seafish levy.

British Seafood has won its appeal against the UK High Court ruling in favour of Seafish, in its refusal to pay £2 million in seafood import taxes.

British Seafood (now in administration) started proceedings in 2008 against Seafish (the seafish industry authority) after it was demanded to pay seafood import taxes.

Last July, Mr Justice Hamblen decided in favour of Seafish, however yesterday the Court of Appeal overturned this decision.

British Seafood disputed whether the levy applied to imported sea fish and sea fish products landed abroad and then imported into the UK.

Defra supported Seafish's interpretation of the legislation that the levy was being charged lawfully, under the Fisheries Act 1981.

John Rutherford, Chief Executive of Seafish, said: “We are clearly disappointed by the ruling of the Court of Appeal which has overturned the initial decisions in our favour.

"We have been firmly advised to appeal and currently we are awaiting the outcome of further discussions with the UK government.

"As ever, we stand ready to serve the seafood industry for a sustainable, profitable future.”

A DEFRA spokesperson said:“We are very disappointed with the judgment from the Court of Appeal that Seafish’s right to levy only extends to fish and fish products first landed in the UK. We are currently considering whether to pursue an appeal.”

Seafish has today (19 March) issued a letter to all levy payers. In the letter, signed by the Mr Rutherford, the group says that anything landed in the UK will continue to subject to the levy.

It continues to say that anything that has been first landed outside the UK and then imported into the UK is not subject to levy, effective as of yesterday (18 March 2010).

Anything imported via the channel tunnel has different provisions that imply depending on the amount of processing that has taken place. Importers are advised to contact Seafish on 01315248680.

Mr Rutherford concluded saying that should any appeal by Seafish be successful, then all levy payers will be required to make levy payments back-dated to 18 March 2010.

To read the full judgement from the court of appeal click here.

To read the letter sent by Seafish to levy payers click here.

the Fish Site Editor

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