- 24 Oct 2018
Date received: 26 September 2018
Date responded: 24 October 2018
You asked for all of the following information that is held within Marine Scotland and its teams, such as the Fish Health Inspectorate, for the salmon farm called "Bellister" (CAR Licence 0134670/V3):
- For each month during the period June 2016 to May 2018. (inclusive)
- Stocking of fish in terms of numbers of fish and their age class/individual weight each month.
- Mortalities stated as numbers of fish and their age class/individual weight each month.
- Transfers (to and from the farm) of fish in terms of numbers of fish and their age class/individual weight each month.
- Harvesting of fish in terms of numbers of fish and their age class/individual weight.
- All communications between Marine Scotland and Fish Health Inspectorate with Scottish Sea Farms Ltd during the period June 2016 to May 2018 related to "Bellister" (CAR Licence 0134670/V3).
Clarification of your request, on 27 September 2018, confirmed that the information being requested related to the salmon farm site called Bight of Bellister, Dury Voe (FS1121) which has the CAR licence number CAR/L/1034670/V3 operating under the licence site name ‘Bellister’.
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 the enclosed information which relates to your request. Most of the information provided relates to communications between Marine Scotland’s Licencing and Operations Team relating to the administrative process relevant to site operation and the discharge of chemicals from wellboats.
Please also find attached some information from the Bight of Bellister, Dury Voe (FS1121) movement record involving the input of live fish into the site in July, August and September of 2016. This is an extract of information relevant to the time period of your request. This information was obtained during the last inspection made by Marine Scotland’s Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) to the site on 10 November 2016, case number 20160530. This was the only inspection of the site carried out by the FHI during the time period of your request.
Information relating to Aquatic Animal Health Surveillance, undertaken by the FHI, is made publicly available through an active publication plan. You can find relevant information relating to case number 20160530 on the Marine Scotland website:
Under regulation 6(1)(b) of the EIRs, we do not have to give you information which is already publicly available and easily accessible to you in another form or format. If, however, you do not have access to the website in question, please contact me and I will supply a hard copy of the information.
However, 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 several exceptions under the EIRs are applicable. These include:
- regulation 10(4)(a) (information which is not held)
- regulation 10(5)(f) (substantial prejudice to the interests of the person who provided the information)
- regulation 11(2) (personal data)
The reasons why these exceptions apply are explained below.
Reasons for not providing information
The Scottish Government does not have the information.
Under the terms of the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs (information not held), the Scottish Government is not required to provide information which it does not have. The Scottish Government does not have the information you have requested because we do not hold monthly data sets / information covering stock details, mortalities, transfers or harvests of fish. The FHI do hold information concerning stock details, mortalities and transfers in relation to site inspections, but as detailed above, this is made available through active publication.
For your information the FHI does hold information relating to mortalities, where mortality reports have been received from individual farm sites. Voluntary reporting thresholds have been agreed between Scottish Government and the industry with respect to specific development stages of farmed fish. This agreement was reached through the Healthier Fish Working Group and the reporting thresholds which were recommended have been adopted by industry stakeholders. Details of the mortality reporting requirements are contained within the Code of Good Practice for Scottish Finfish Aquaculture (CoGP) http://thecodeofgoodpractice.co.uk/ However, we hold no such reports for the site Bight of Bellister, Dury Voe (FS1121) in relation to the time period of this request.
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. While we recognise that there may be some public interest in information concerning the subject areas of this request, clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.
We also hold site specific annual production data but this information is subject to regulation 10(5)(f) of the EIRs (substantial prejudice to interests of person who provided the information). This information was collected as part of the data collection for the Scottish Fish Farm Annual Production Survey (the 2017 survey was published on 15 October 2018 and is available on the Scottish Government website - https://www.gov.scot/Topics/marine/Fish-Shellfish/FHI/surveys). This exception applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the interests of Scottish Sea Farms who provided that information to the Scottish Government. They:
- were 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 Scottish Sea Farms, 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 future production data with us. This would significantly impair the Scottish Government’s ability produce the Annual Fish Farms production survey, a publication that has been running for almost 25 years and that provides a picture of the aquaculture industry on a Scotland-wide basis. This would not be in the public interest.
Regulation 11(2) of the EIRs (personal information) applies to some of the information requested (names of individuals) because it is personal data of a third party and disclosing it would contravene the data protection principles in Article 5(1) of the General Data Protection Regulation and in section 34(1) of the Data Protection Act 2018. This exception is not subject to the ‘public interest test’, so we are not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exception.
Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House