- 19 Sep 2019
Date received: 2 Sep 2019
Date responded: 19 Sep 2019
You asked for the following information, with reference to the data collected for the 2018 Scottish Salmon Farm Survey :
- A list of all sea water salmon farms that completed and returned forms for the survey year 2018 (forms for Atlantic salmon - smolt data and Atlantic salmon – production data only).
- Please provide copies of the forms completed by each site/operator.
- Please provide datasets held/used by Marine Scotland which show fish numbers and weights site by site and/or by operator.
- Please provide datasets held/used by Marine Scotland which show employee numbers by site and/or by operator.
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 list of the sea water salmon farms that completed survey returns for 2018. The Annual Fish Farm Production Survey has a 100% response rate, therefore this list also represents all the forms that were sent out.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide the information you have requested under points 2, 3 and 4 above because an exception under regulation 10(5)(f) (substantial prejudice to the interests of the person that provided that information) of the EIRs applies to that information. The reasons why that exception applies are explained in the Annex to this letter.
Please note that the Annual Fish Farm Production Survey 2018 is due to be published on 30 September 2019. This publication is Official Statistics and is published in accordance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics, https://gss.civilservice.gov.uk/policy-store/code-of-practice-for-statistics/.
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION
An exception applies
An exception under regulation 10(5)(f) of the EIRs (substantial prejudice to interests of person who provided the information) applies the information you have requested. This exception applies because disclosure of this particular information would, or would be likely to, prejudice substantially the interests of the aquaculture companies operating in Scotland 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. Further, the public interest in the release of the information is partly met by its publication in aggregate form. However, there is a greater public interest in protecting the interests of anyone, such as aquaculture companies operating in Scotland, who provide the Scottish Government with information on a confidential basis. Disclosing such information against the express wishes of the stakeholders is likely to undermine their trust in the Government and make them reluctant in future to share information with us on aquaculture production. This would mean that we would no longer be able to publish the Annual Fish Farm Production Survey, the continuation of a unique dataset that is almost 40 years old. This 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 Andrews House