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Editor’s note: The following is a letter to the editor submitted by Chris Holmes, managing director of London-based seafood supplier and importer Holmes Seafood. It’s in response to the 15 June SeafoodSource story “UK’s Supreme Court sides with Seafish.” 

It was reported [on 15 June] that the Supreme Court, under the direction of Defra, has overturned last year’s decision and has re-instated the right of the government quango, the Seafish Industry Authority (seafish), to levy duties against UK seafood importers. Why? In these challenging times of business austerity and promised abolishment of quangos, what is the court thinking?

For years the industry has been questioning the relevance and productivity of this incredibly expensive authority. Seafish was formed in the distant past to promote the consumption of the then highly underutilised fish stocks of UK waters. To this end they were granted the right to levy a charge against any UK company who landed and marketed sea fish.

This is 2011. UK fishing stocks and consumption of seafood are out of kilter, and we find ourselves importing more and more of our seafood both fresh and increasingly in quick-frozen form. UK whitefish products do not need promoting. So what are we importers paying ever increasing amounts of money for?

Within the industry we do have extremely effective trade associations, like the British Frozen Food Federation, who are financed on an annual membership fee basis and separate targeted funding where appropriate. The BFFF produces concrete visible promotion campaigns for the whole of the frozen food sector as well as comprehensive legal and technical information and form effective lobbying committees for many areas. Here we see money well spent.

What do we get with Seafish, other than a huge annual bill (GBP 30,000 for my small company alone)?

We get a lovely new multi-million pound headquarters for them and a budget that allocates over 50 percent of its funding (our money) to salaries, pensions and office requirements. Other than the odd promotion in high street wet fish shops (if you can find one) and the Fish & Chip shop of the year awards, not a lot it would seem.

Seafish will tell you on their lovely web site of all the invisible hard work they do behind the scenes in promoting the awareness of UK white fish: work with the multiples, work with TV chiefs and the national media. Again the industry will point to far more valuable concrete and productive work done by its own trade associations.

So what are really paying these vast sums of money for? Could it be “jobs for the boys?” Exactly what this government promised to get rid off!

Defra, what are you doing to us?


Chris Holmes

Holmes Seafood


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