FOI reference: FOI/18/01553
Date received: 4 June 2018
Date responded: 2 July 2018
Information on salmon ova imports since 1 January 2017, including:
details of egg import licence documents, any tests for disease, health certificates, emails and any other information related to salmon ova imports since 1 January 2017.
information on the Norwegian Government's decision to ban the import of salmon eggs from Scotland - including any details of meetings with Hendrix Genetics, Landcatch, the Norwegian Government or any other parties but only since 29 March 2018 (i.e. since FOI/18/01043).
any reaction by the Scottish Government - including press briefings, Cabinet Briefings and any other email alerts - in relation to last week's publication in the National (31 May 2018) and press release issued by Scottish Salmon Watch (31 May 2018).
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.
Please find a copy of most of the information you requested enclosed.
I have also provided, in Annex 2 of this letter, some information outlining the legal conditions and certification requirements for the placing on the market and import of aquaculture animals. While you have requested information on tests for disease and health certificates, Marine Scotland's Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) do not conduct routine testing on ova introduced or imported into Scotland. Testing is undertaken at the source site, by the Competent Authority within that country, as required. The FHI are notified of any incidences of listed diseases, should they occur. Notification is made through official channels of communication including via SCoPAFF or the OIE.
Therefore, I have included example copies of health certificates issued by the competent authority in the country of origin for each ova source referred to in the table of 2017/2018 introductions are attached to allow you to see what information is included in these.
The importer or consignee must notify the Scottish Ministers, i.e. the Fish Health Inspectorate, in writing, of an intended introduction from the EU or EFTA at least 24 hours prior to arrival. Notification can be made using the import notification form (copy attached). The information from the notification forms received, relating to the time scale of your request, is presented in the attached table.
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 exceptions under regulations 10(5)(e) (commercial confidentiality) and 10(4)(e) (internal communications) of the EIRs apply to that information. The reasons why these exceptions apply are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
An exception under regulation 10(5)(e) of the EIRs (substantial prejudice to confidentiality of commercial 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 confidentiality of commercial information provided by Scottish Sea Farms and thus cause substantial harm to their commercial interests. Disclosing this information would be likely to give competitors an advantage by revealing company or industrial commercial strategy for production of salmon in freshwater, thereby substantially prejudicing future production strategies.
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 commercial interests of companies that provide employment and contribute economically to Scotland.
A further exception under regulation 10(4)(e) of the EIRs (internal communications) applies to a small amount of the information you have requested because it is internal communication involving free and frank advice provided by officials to Scottish Ministers.
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, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate. However, there is a greater public interest in allowing a private space within which officials can provide free and frank advice and views to Ministers. It is clearly in the public interest that Ministers can properly answer Parliamentary questions, provide sound information to Parliament (to which they are accountable), and robustly defend the Government's policies and decisions. They need full and candid advice from officials to enable them to do so. Premature disclosure of this type of information could lead to a reduction in the comprehensiveness and frankness of such advice and views in the future, which would not be in the public interest.
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
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House