FOI reference: FOI/18/01439
Date received: 22 May 2018
Date responded: 19 June 2018
The data collected since the beginning of the scientific trial of electrofishing for razor clams on: a) the short-term effects of electrofishery on the marine environment? b) the long-term effects of electrofishery on the marine environment.
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.
The electrofishing for razor clams trial which launched on 1 February 2018 aims to build on the evidence provided in the 2014 Marine Scotland Science study, "Electrofishing for Razor Clams (Ensis siliqua and E. arcuatus): Effects on Survival and Recovery of Target and Non-Target Species" which concluded that:
i. there was limited short term impact from the gear on target and non-target species;
ii. the gear produced almost no impact on the physical environment, unlike legal dredge methods;
iii. the method of capture is highly selective, producing high quality product with little damage or waste and zero bycatch;
iv. further research on longer-term impacts of the gear is required; and,
v. surveys are required to assess size and magnitude of razor clam populations.
Further scientific stock surveys which are being planned for later in 2018 will also provide videos of electrofishing and further information on short term responses, in particular on non-target species. The trial is in its early stages with 60% of eligible vessels currently authorised to participate. In order to investigate short-term and longer term impacts of electrofishing on the marine environment work is underway to establish the footprint of the trial fishery, using data generated by an on-board monitoring system which provides details of both vessel position (recorded every 10 seconds) and also when the specified electrical equipment is being used i.e. fine scale information on individual fishing locations. This will enable comparative studies on level of exposure to the gear in different areas to be undertaken.
There is an exception under regulation 10(4)(d) of the EIRs (unfinished or incomplete information) which applies to the data gathered by the trial. The trial is in its early stages, data is still being collected and as it stands is incomplete. However, periodically, data gathered will be used in aggregated and anonymous form in publications and reports produced by, for and on behalf of Marine Scotland.
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
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