- 4 Feb 2019
Date received: 19 Dec 2018
Date responded: 1 Feb 2019
You asked for information on bio-security and disease risk in relation to the import of salmon ova and lumpsucker ova into Scotland for the use on salmon farms. You limited this to information from 2016 onwards in an email of 4 January 2019. You further specified that this should include:
- any risk assessments of imports from Iceland, Norway and Ireland for infectious diseases, bacteria, viruses, pathogens and other foreign agents;
- any documents, emails, import certificates, quarantine protocols and other information where bio-security and disease risks are cited, assessed or referenced;
- any test results for infectious diseases, bacteria, pathogens and viruses including Piscine Orthoreovirus (PRV); and
- any correspondence and documentation from the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST), Irish Government, Norwegian Government, European agencies, the OIE and other parties in relation to bio-security and disease risk in relation to the import of salmon ova and lumpsucker ova into Scotland for the use on salmon farms.
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 enclosed a copy of some of the information requested. While we provide information where possible, in this case exceptions at regulation 10(4)(e) (internal communications) and 11(2) (personal data) apply to some of the information requested. The reasons why these exceptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter.
In response to some specific aspects of your request please consider the following context and background information which may be useful to you:
Risk assessments associated with imports are not routinely undertaken. Introductions (from countries within the European Union) and imports (from third countries) are made into Scotland (which forms part of the United Kingdom EU member state) following the trade principles contained within European and domestic legislation (Council Directive 2006/88/EC and The Aquatic Animal Health (Scotland) Regulations 2009). The basic principles are that member states, compartments (e.g. a defined area within a member state), or individual sites of a recognised disease / health status can only trade (move live animals) with areas of equivalent or lower health status. The principle aims to reduce the risk of disease transfer associated with the trade and movement live animals and their products. These legislative requirements only apply to the listed diseases defined within the legislation.
Health certification, which includes attestations with respect to specific disease and pathogens, is issued by the competent authority of the exporting country. Certificates are shared through an electronic database system and also accompany the consignments of aquatic animals. This in effect serves as a ‘passport’ in relation to health status allowing trade to occur in line with the legal requirements.
With respect to imports for farming from third countries (non-EU countries and some EFTA countries) there is often greater dialogue with the competent authority regarding the proposed import. This is because third countries tend not to have detailed lists of approved areas or farms as is present through Commission Decisions 2009/177/EC and 2010/221/EC for EU countries. These communications centre around our own requirements for health certification which includes the standard required in terms of certification and evidence such as testing and inspection results to ensure our health standards can be met. If the competent authority in the exporting country can’t sign the health certificate then the consignment would be refused.
We have provided you with example certificates through our response to your previous request FoI/18/01553, which contains examples of health certification in relation to trade and detail any necessary biosecurity requirements.
Some of the information provided to you relates to a voluntary agreement between several member states regarding the trade in lumpfish and the risk of introducing VHS virus. Lumpfish species (as well as wrasse) are not listed as susceptible within European legislation and as such can legally be traded without health certification and attestations for that pathogen. Evidence has shown a degree of susceptibility within wrasse and lumpsuckers in relation to VHS virus. As a result, several member states involved in the trade of those species agreed upon a process of voluntary certification, to offer the same assurances as afforded through the legislation. A request has been made with the EU Commission to update the list of susceptible species with respect to this situation.
We have provided some information in relation to the detection of ISA within Norway and the potential impact of the same in relation to trade. In addition there is follow up information relating to the actions taken by Norway in relation to their application to regain disease free status. Comments from Scotland and the UK regarding the process are included. A presentation relating to this provides further information and is available on-line at the following link:
International biosecurity standards, in relation to the trade in aquatic animals and their products, are detailed within the OIE Aquatic Code. It is these standards which are embraced within the EU community legislation which is further transposed into UK and Scottish law.
Scotland forms part of the wider UK EU member state and as such international communications, particularly in relation to the those with the EU and OIE, concerning matters relating to aquatic animal health, are undertaken through the UK Government department Defra.
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION
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 the Rimstad declaration to regain disease free status following the confirmation of the presence of Infectious Salmon Anaemia (ISA) virus. This information includes comments from individual staff members in order to formulate a collective opinion on the Marine Scotland position with respect to the declaration. The final agreed opinion has been released as part of the response.
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 formulate official and agreed Government opinions. It is clearly in the public interest for officials to be afforded this space to ensure the advice and opinion provided is sound and reflects and supports the Government’s policies and decisions. 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, and negatively impact the ability for officials to have open and frank conversations which would not be in the public interest.
A further exception under regulation 11(2) of the EIRs (personal information) applies to some of the information requested 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.
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 Andrews House