- 23 Apr 2020
Date received: 24 Feb 2020
Date responded: 23 Apr 2020
I am interested in better understanding the implementation of the landing obligation and would therefore like to request some information.
Can I please request the following,
- A summary of the amount of below MCRS fish landed in 2019, broken down by month and port of landing.
- A summary of the amount of fish discarded in 2019 under the exemptions set out in both 2.1 and 2.2 of the Scottish Government's Guidance for Scottish Fishing Vessels 2018 separately, and broken down by month and port of landing.
- Any agreement made between Scottish Government and Producer Organisations regarding the allocation and use of 'discard quota' for West of Scotland (Division 27.6.a) cod and whiting.
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.
First please allow me to apologise for the delay in responding to your information request as the original deadline of 23rd March was missed. This was due to extenuating circumstances and I trust this response will prove useful to you.
While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance the Scottish Government does not have some of the information you have requested. I refer to your first query “A summary of the amount of below MCRS fish landed in 2019, broken down by month and port of landing,” therefore we
are refusing your request under the exception at regulation 10(4)(d) of the EIRs.
An exception under regulation 10(4)(d) of the EIRs (unfinished or incomplete information) applies to some of the information you have requested because the data is still being collected and sense in the annual fish statistic report which is due to be published in a provisional format in May 2020 with the final publication to be released in September 2020.
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 some public interest in release as part of open, transparent and accountable government, and this will be met by our planned publication of the provisional statistics in May 2020. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring that unfinished or incomplete information which is still in being worked on and is under active consideration is not disclosed when it might misinform the public on the matter to which the information relates.
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 Marine Scotland Science do not record
quantities of catch that have been discarded at sea, nor whether unwanted fish are damaged or contaminated.
Marine Scotland Science undertakes annual statistical surveys of commercial fishing trips to collect biological information on catch under the European Union Data Collection Framework (Regulation (EU) 2007/1004 http://www.legislation.gov.uk/eur/2017/1004). These surveys cover around 1-2% of trawl fishing trips per year and provide statistical estimates of parameters for stock assessments and fishery management for certain species, as requested by the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) in the Spring of the following year. The parameters for which estimates are calculated include total weight and total number of unwanted fish by species, area and fishery.
The scientific observers obtain a sample of unwanted catch at the time of sorting, from which they record numbers by species and length. The sample could include both species which are subject to the landing obligation, and species which are not, including non-quota and prohibited species. The scientific observers do not record whether these fish are damaged or contaminated nor whether they are landed as unmarketable fish or discarded. Fishers are recording this however with the statistics being included in the Sea Fisheries Provisional Statistics which will be available in May.
The estimates for 2019 for approximately 40 species covered by the landing obligation had not been calculated when the request arrived but are now available. Estimates for elasmobranch species, including prohibited species, and some species not subject to the landing obligation for 2019 have not yet been calculated. We expect to calculate these estimates within the next month and produce a report covering all species for which estimates are calculated by the end of May.
On your final query “any agreement made between Scottish Government and Producer Organisations regarding the allocation and use of 'discard quota' for West of Scotland (Division 27.6.a) cod and whiting.” 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 there is no ‘discards quota’ for West of Scotland cod and whiting, as this is not a recognised term. We assume that you are referring to the EU’s agreement at the end of December 2018 to allocate a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for both of these stocks in order to avoid a so-called ‘choke’ situation under the landing obligation. Following the setting of a TAC, it was agreed that quota would not be allocated to vessels via the Fixed Quota Allocation (FQA) method, but would instead be managed by a by-catch limit in all UK licences, something which had been in place since 2011, when the Commission imposed a zero TAC on the 6a cod stock, with a by-catch limit of 1.5%.
Please find within the document attached some of the discussions that were held as part of the Fisheries Management and Conservation (FMAC) meetings in which the allocation and use of quota for West of Scotland cod and whiting were mentioned. This also includes a notification that was sent to FMAC with the UK Apportionment of Scottish Allocations in April last year. These files have been redacted in accordance with the EIR Regulations 11(1) and (2) namely Personal data relating to applicant and Personal data relating to third party. In the January FMAC minutes there was an action point to discuss possible reallocation of FQA shares to Marine Scotland however this has not taken place as of yet. You should also note that many of the outcomes of December Council TAC discussions were communicated to stakeholders verbally, however, I have also attached a written copy of the outcomes, including those for West of Scotland cod and whiting. You can find this table on pages 10 and 11 of the attached document.
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