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Seafood Industry Celebrates Keeping Frozen Fish Duty-Free

Last updated Monday, August 12, 2013 15:30 ET

A tuna importer dodges a tariff hike that could have caused prices for frozen fish to skyrocket.

Miami, USA, 08/12/2013 / SubmitMyPR /

The seafood industry has cause to celebrate after dodging a tariff hike that could have caused prices for frozen fish to skyrocket.

A recent government ruling confirms that Miami-based Sea Delight LLC can continue to import frozen tuna fillets duty-free. While the ruling is specific to certain frozen tuna fillets, experts believe that other seafood importers will benefit from the decision along with, less directly, importers of meat, vegetables and fruit.

According to the July 29, 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) ruling, Sea Delight’s treatment of frozen tuna with “tasteless smoke”--a filtered wood smoke process that retards oxidation to maintain the fish’s natural color while frozen-- does not yield “prepared or preserved fish” under the U.S. tariff. Had CBP ruled otherwise, the duty rate on tuna would have jumped from zero to a whopping 12.5 percent, likely putting many frozen fish importers out of business. Rates on other fish would have jumped 4-6 percent.

Attorney Deborah Stern, whose firm, Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg, PA, represents Sea Delight, says the ruling is a big win for food importers.

“Based on this ruling, it’s fair to conclude that frozen fish treated to maintain a fresh, appealing look are unlikely to face a tariff rate hike as a result of this type of tasteless smoke treatment or similar treatments such as those employing carbon monoxide,” Stern says. “It is also likely that other seafood, meats, fruits and vegetables will avoid CBP scrutiny for similar processes.” However, there are some limitations. “The ruling does not, for example, guarantee duty-free treatment to ground tuna, which is not considered to be fillet and so is subject to import duty depending upon packaging,” Stern says. “Seafood and other food importers should therefore check with customs counsel to determine if the ruling affects their specific products.”

Food importers have been turning to Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg for assistance with customs and global trade matters since 1977. Together with its related consulting company, Sandler & Travis Trade Advisory Services, ST&R is the largest dedicated international trade and customs service provider in the world, with over 600 customs and trade professionals across the globe.