Publication - FOI/EIR release

Salmon and Sea Trout catch data: EIR Review

Published: 14 Oct 2020

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

Published:
14 Oct 2020
Salmon and Sea Trout catch data: EIR Review
FOI reference: FOI/202000068631
Date received: 15 May 2020
Date responded: 27 Aug 2020
Information requested

Original request for information:

1. “I would like to access the catch data for salmon and sea trout for all 109 fishery districts in Scotland for the year 2019.”
2. “This has been restricted because of GDPR but there is no explanation as to how catch information from a single fishery district, even if it is just one small river with one single proprietor can be extrapolated into private information about the proprietor. I would be grateful for an explanation as to how this change is in Scotland’s interests with regard to wild salmon and sea trout stocks.”

I wish to appeal your decision to withhold the catch data for all 109 salmon fishery districts.
1. Under Scottish law, salmon in rivers do not belong to anyone. They only belong if killed and kept. As nearly all salmon and sea trout are now returned, the fish do not belong to the proprietor and therefore cannot be considered personal data.

2. FOI reference: FOI/202000033411,
Date received: 29 Apr 2020
Date responded: 7 May 2020
Has provided the person who requested the information with more detailed information about catches than usually provided in the catch data series 1952–2018. This sort of information would be very valuable to help safeguard wild fish but has never been made available.

3. Whilst data from various fishery districts has been amalgamated eg Ewe Gruinard, Little Broom, the catch data, albeit in a slightly different form is provided in the information about Conservation Limits.
This is a double standard.

4. The late Dr Willie Shearer who worked on this data in the 1990s wrote in his book that the data is unreliable. It is common knowledge that proprietors under report catches as good catches increase the rateable value of their beats.
Marine Scotland have never addressed this issue but in order to protect wild fish, all catch data should be published.
 

Response

I have now completed my review of your request, and I have concluded that the original response should be upheld with modifications. I have offered further explanation to you in my response where I considered it may be helpful.

I apologise on behalf of Marine Scotland for the delay experienced in responding to your request for this review. This was due to an administrative error and I understand the process for allocating reviews is to be re-considered to strengthen the process.

I have identified a number of catch data returns which can be released as they do not contain personal data and therefore I have determined that we were not entitled to withhold this information under regulation 11(2).

However, I have determined that an exception under regulation 11(2) continues to apply to some of the catch data returns previously withheld. I note your point in the first part of your review request stating that nearly all salmon and sea trout are now returned, however I am satisfied that catch data returns from individual acting as individuals, sole traders or small partnerships would fall within the scope of personal data.

The legal status of the data provider is key to determining whether the information is, or is likely to be, personal data. Information submitted from an angling club, for instance, does not identify individuals and so is not considered personal data. However, we consider that information provided by individuals acting as individuals, sole traders or small partnerships would fall within the definition of personal data. From 2019 onwards, MS has requested that the legal status of the form submitter is included in the return, to inform the decision-making process in relation to the release of personal data and this information has been used to inform my review.

You may find it helpful to note that the determination of whether salmon catch data can be considered personal data has been considered at some length by Marine Scotland (MS). MS have sought to determine a consistent approach which meets their obligations under the Genera Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), their statutory obligation to collect and process salmon catch data, and to meet their obligations to fulfil requests for information requested under the EIR regulations. The MS approach is outlined in full in the ‘Marine Scotland Salmon and Sea Trout Fishery Records Privacy and Content Disclaimer Notice’, which is also provided to all fishery representatives with the annual catch form.

In addition you may find the data released under the EIR request referenced below of use – it provides ‘Salmon and Sea Trout catches by individual rivers for the years 2017, 2018 & 2019”, with the exception of some information where, as described above, MS considers the information to contain personal data.
https://www.gov.scot/publications/foi-202000042112/

In points 2 and 3 of your review request, you have highlighted instances where information of a similar nature has been provided. I have reviewed these publications with the business area and can confirm that the information disclosed in response to FOI reference 202000033411 and in relation to Conservation Limits was not considered to be personal data, for the reasons explained above, and hence was appropriate to release in this context.

Finally, I note your comments in point 4 of your request for review and your view that all catch data should be published. I hope the additional information provided with this response is helpful.

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 Andrews House
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Edinburgh
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