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Publication - FOI/EIR release

Impact of cleaner fish: EIR release

Published: 2 Mar 2018

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.

Published:
2 Mar 2018
Impact of cleaner fish: EIR release

FOI reference: FOI/18/00461
Date received: 12 February 2018
Date responded: 1 March 2018

Information requested

Information on discussions on cleaner fish (including wrasse and lumpsuckers) and impacts on wild fish since 1 January 2017.

  • Please include information on the licenses issued to fishermen and data on landings.

  • Please include information on discussions on "what needs to be put in place before the fishery starts in April" including emails, agendas for meetings, papers, reports and other correspondence.

  • Please include correspondence and discussions with fishermen and salmon farming companies on the issue of cleaner fish (including wrasse and lumpsuckers).

Response

As the information you have requested is 'environmental information' for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.

This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.

I enclose a copy of some of the information you requested in the format you asked for.

With reference to information on the licenses issued to fishermen and data on landings.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because an exception(s) under regulation(s) 10(4)(a) (information not held) and 10(4)(d) of the EIRs (unfinished or incomplete information). The reasons why that exception(s) applies are explained below.

With regard to your request:

• Please include information on discussions on "what needs to be put in place before the fishery starts in April" including emails, agendas for meetings, papers, reports and other correspondence.

• Please include correspondence and discussions with fishermen and salmon farming companies on the issue of cleaner fish (including wrasse and lumpsuckers).

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because an exception(s) under regulation(s) 10(4)(d) of the EIRs (unfinished or incomplete information), 10(4)(e) (internal communications), and 10(5)(f) (substantial prejudice to interests of person who provided the information) of the EIRs applies to that information. The reasons why that exception(s) applies are explained below.

Reasons for not providing information

An exception applies.

An exception applies under regulation 10(4)(a) (information not held) of the EIRs. The Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested because licences are not issued specifically to fish for wrasse. Fishermen who target wrasse should do so with a UK registered and licensed fishing vessel. In Scotland, the licence is issued on behalf of Scottish Ministers and in this case allows fishers to fish commercially for the species. Information on licensing can be found at http://www.gov.scot/Topics/marine/Licensing/FVLS/11285

I have considered your request for data on landings. An exception under regulation 10(4)(d) of the EIRs (unfinished or incomplete information) applies to the information you have requested because it is material which is still in the course of completion and incomplete data. At this time, data for the period requested is still being entered on our systems. We have to check the figures and resolve any discrepancies, and also consider the level at which data may be grouped to provide as much detail without being disclosive before we release data in Provisional Statistics in April and more detailed Official Statistics in September. We should therefore be in position to release Provisional data on Wrasse catches in April and final official data in September.

This exception is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. We recognise that there is some public interest in release as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and this will be met by our planned publication of Provisional Statistics in April and more detailed Official Statistics in September. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring that unfinished or incomplete information which is still in being worked on or is under active consideration is not disclosed when it might misinform the public or give a misleading impression of the Government's view or position on the matter to which the information relates.

An exception under regulation 10(4)(d) of the EIRs (unfinished or incomplete information) applies to some of the information you have requested because it is an unfinished document intended for submission for peer review. The manuscript is unfinished as the data for 2017 was only recently provided by Marine Scotland Compliance and is undergoing analysis and reporting. This analysis updates the figures presented in the MASTS ASM presentation.

This exception is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. We recognise that there is some public interest in release as part of open, transparent and accountable government[, and this will be met by our planned submission of the publication for peer review by 31 March 2018. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring that unfinished or incomplete information which is still in being worked on is not disclosed when it might misinform the public or on the matter to which the information relates.

An exception under regulation 10(4)(e) of the EIRs (internal communications) applies to some of the information you have requested because it is internal communication between Scottish Government officials about a possible option for additional data collection about the wrasse fishery and future management options for managing the fishery.

This exception is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. We recognise that there is some public interest in release as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in high quality policy and decision-making, and in the properly considered implementation and development of policies and decisions. This means that Ministers and officials need to be able to consider all available options and to debate those rigorously, to fully understand their possible implications. Their candour in doing so will be affected by their assessment of whether the discussions on the development of data collection requirements relating to the wrasse fishery to which the information relates will be disclosed in the near future, when it may undermine or constrain the Government's view on that issue while it is still under discussion and development.

An exception under regulation 10(5)(f) of the EIRs (substantial prejudice to interests of person who provided the information) applies to some of the information you have requested. This exception applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the interests of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, Scottish Sea Farms, Scottish Salmon Company, Loch Duart, and individuals who provided that information to the Scottish Government. They:

  • we're not under any legal obligation to give us that information;

  • did not supply it in circumstances in which it could, apart from the EIRs, be made available; and

  • have not consented to disclosure.

This exception is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exception. We recognise that there is a public interest in disclosing information as part of open and transparent government. However, there is a greater public interest in protecting the interests of anyone, such as the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation, Scottish Sea Farms, Scottish Salmon Company, Loch Duart, and individuals who provides the Scottish Government with information on a confidential basis. Disclosing such information against the express wishes of the stakeholder is likely to undermine their trust in the Government and make them reluctant in future to share information with us on issues such as developing methods of data collection relating to the wrasse fishery. This would significantly impair the Scottish Government's ability to develop policies and make decisions on the basis of fully informed advice and evidence. This would not be in the public interest.

The information supplied to you continues to be protected by the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. You are free to use it for your own purposes, including any non-commercial research you are doing and for the purposes of news reporting. Any other re-use, for example commercial publication, would require the permission of the copyright holder. Most documents supplied by the Scottish Government will have been produced by government officials and will be Crown Copyright. You can find details on the arrangements for re-using Crown Copyright material on the OPSI website at: http://www.opsi.gov.uk/click-use/index.htm.

Information you receive which is not subject to Crown Copyright continues to be protected by the copyright of the person, or organisation, from which the information originated. You must ensure that you gain their permission before reproducing any third party (non Crown Copyright) information.

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at http://www.gov.scot/foi-responses

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference

Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
EH1 3DG