The Sea Fish Industry Authority (Seafish), is a UK-wide, levy-funded non-departmental public body established by the Fisheries Act 1981. It has a statutory duty to promote the efficiency of the sea fish industry as a whole. It is jointly sponsored by the four fisheries administrations in the UK.
On 18 March, the Court of Appeal ruled that the Fisheries Act 1981 does not permit Seafish to raise a levy on imported sea fish and sea fish products, only that which is first landed in the UK. The result was to significantly reduce its levy income.
The Court of Appeal handed down an order on 20 April requiring Seafish to repay to the claimants six years of unlawfully collected levy plus interest and costs. The Court of Appeal agreed to stay the execution of the payments pending determination of an appeal to the Supreme Court.
On 18 May, Defra, with the support of Seafish, petitioned the Supreme Court for leave to appeal against the judgment.
The reduction in Seafish’s income has led Seafish to scale back their activities and to ask the sponsoring administrations for financial support. With the agreement of HM Treasury, Ministers have agreed to make a short-term, commercial loan of £200,000 available to Seafish to enable Seafish to continue to operate within its reduced income.
Officials are continuing to work with Seafish to explore the longer-term options and further statements will be made as appropriate.