Publication - FOI/EIR release

Salmon and sea trout catches - Sgitheach and Allt Graad, Evanton: EIR review

Published: 6 Nov 2020

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004.

Published:
6 Nov 2020
Salmon and sea trout catches - Sgitheach and Allt Graad, Evanton: EIR review
FOI reference: FOI/202000087750
Date received: 3 Sep 2020
Date responded: 30 Sep 2020
Information requested

Under the section of your response entitled "Information Regarding Fisheries on the Rivers Sgitheach and Allt Graad" I would like clarification on the following points:

Paragraph 1. Sentence 1: Do the "7 catch forms" to which you refer relate to individual returns for various reparian owners with fishing rights on the river?

If so then a total annual return for the river will not identify any single individual.

Sentence 2: If it is not possible to provide information prior to 2016 for the Allt Graad how can information on Salmon returns for individual rivers be identified?

Sentence 3: Where do Marine Scotland get the information that only 1 fishery has been active on the Allt Graad since 2016?

Response

I have now completed my review of our response to your request under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs) for salmon and sea trout catches for the rivers Sgitheach and Allt Graad, Evanton (1986- 2019).

I have concluded that the original response should be upheld with some modification. I have been mindful of our duty to provide advice and assistance, I have therefore also offered a further explanation to clarify the specific points you raised in your request for review.

You have asserted your belief that further information within the scope of your request may be held. I am satisfied that proportionate searches were undertaken by the case handler and that the information held in the scope of your request has been identified and considered.

Regulation 11(2) (personal information)

The case handler considered that an exemption under regulation 11(2) (personal information) of the EIRs applied to some of the information requested, because it is personal data of a third party, i.e. the catch data relate to an individual.

He considered that 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.

I have reviewed all of the information withheld under this exception and in each instance I am satisfied that exceptions have been applied only where catch data may be linked to an individual.

I therefore agree with the case handler’s assessment. I also note that as this exception is not subject to the public interest test, I am not required to consider if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption.

Regulation 10(4)(a) (information not held)

The case handler in his response explained that information about salmon and sea trout catches for the rivers Sgitheach and Allt Graad, Evanton was not held by the Scottish Government prior to 2016, because we were required to collate data at District level until that year.

In conducting my review, I have determined that although our response explained that we did not hold the information set out above, it did not provide the formal notification required under regulation 10(4) (a) (information not held) in this regard.

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. Further information about why this information is not held is set out below.

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 about catch data for individual rivers, clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.

Additional questions raised at review

You also asked a number of questions about information provided in our original response letter. I have consulted with the appropriate team in order to answer these questions. I have listed your questions below and my response to each, which I hope is helpful.

1. Catch forms referred to in the following sentence of our original response – “There are 7 catch forms in the electronic Salmon and Sea Trout Catch Database for catches on the river Allt Graad (1986-2019)”. You asked if these forms referred to individual returns from various riparian owners with
fishing rights on the river.

Firstly, it may be helpful if I explain that when the Conservation Regulations came into force in 2016 this changed how catches were reported. As I mentioned above, until 2016, catches had to be collated at District level. Under the Conservation Regulations from 2016, some rivers, or groups of rivers, are defined as assessable areas and reports on these areas are required and used by the Scottish Government (SG) to assess the status of salmon stocks on an annual basis.

There are six fisheries in our records for the Allt Graad, not seven as you were told in our original response. Two of these appear only briefly, in the mid 1990s, and one appears in the records only from 1986-1991.

There are three current fisheries for the Allt Graad, with each fishery on a different form. These fisheries are:

3-22 Allt Graad, Traum. Currently dormant. Last fished in 2012
3-23 Allt Graad, Culcairn Mills. Dormant since it entered the records in 1995.
3-24 Allt Graad* Active, catches reported by the proprietor
* Both banks, from Black Rock to the mouth, excluding left bank from grid ref 26038666 to 26068665 and 26088663 to 26128663).

2. You asked if it was not possible to provide information on the Allt Graad prior to 2016, how can information on salmon catches for individual rivers be obtained.

Prior to 2016, catches had to be reported at District level. A proprietor could report catches from all of their fisheries on one form if they were all in the same District. Catches were recorded and reported at District, not river, level. The Conservation Regulations came into force from the 2016 season. Under these Regulations, some rivers, or groups of rivers, are defined as assessable areas for which the SG has to assess the status of salmon stocks on an annual basis. Catches from more than one fishery can still be reported on one form, but each form can only relate to fisheries in one assessable area, or (if the form doesn’t relate to fisheries within an assessable area), from fisheries within a single District.

It may be possible in some instances to provide river level catch data, but this is not the basis on which the data are collected, so it is not possible in all instances, for all rivers, to provide this information.

3. You asked where Marine Scotland got the information that there was only one fishery active on the Allt Graad since 2016.

Only one form reporting catches on the Allt Graad has been received for 2016 onwards.

4. River Sgitheach – you say that your understanding is that the angling club provide returns to the local Fishery Board, and ask what a ‘dormant notification’ is and who is notified of such.

The SG (Marine Scotland) have no record of the angling club fishing the River Sgitheach. If the club are fishing this river, we should be receiving a return. Either the club or the proprietor should request a form, inform us of which fishery is active and make a return.

The SG is aware of three fisheries on the river, the contacts for which are all private individuals:

23-9 River Sgitheach, Foulis. Right bank of the River Sgitheach, from west boundary of the Clare Plantation (at approx. 255578 865479), downstream to the mouth of River Sgitheach at approx. 261864 865091.
23-60 River Skiach, Evanton. Grid reference NH552655 to NH 539641. Bounded by eastern boundaryof Clare plantation, North Bank.
23-61 River Skiach, Evanton. Left bank from Evanton railway bridge to Balconie House.

Regarding dormant fisheries, towards the end of each season we write to the contact for all fisheries known to us, and ask them to complete a catch form. A dormant fishery is not active, and the owner has no intention of activating it. We are usually notified if a fishery wishes to be treated as dormant when we ask for the catch form to be completed for that season.

Catch forms are not sent to dormant fisheries, but each year when catch forms are issued to active fisheries, a letter is sent informing the fishery contact that their fishery will be treated as a Nil, not fished, return. The letter is intended to prompt the proprietor to inform the SG if the fishery is sold, or to request a catch form if it has been reactivated.

5. The table provided for intermittent returns for the Allt Graad, Truam beat – you ask why this is not personal data and excepted from release.

This information cannot be related back to a living individual, so is not personal data under the Data Protection Act 2018. Therefore, the exception does not apply to this information and we are required to release it. When releasing information requested under the EIRs, we are required to operate from a strong presumption in favour of release and will only withhold information if an exception under the EIRs applies. In this case, no exception under the EIRs applies to the information relating to the Allt Graad, Truam beat; therefore it was released.

You finish your review request by making some comments about how salmon and sea trout catch data are collected, and at what level you would expect that information to be made available.

As explained in our original response, it is our understanding that some salmon and sea trout catches are personal data. Information relating to an individual may not be released, and we applied the exception at regulation 11(2) of the EIRs to allow us to withhold that data. I am satisfied that this exception was correctly applied to the data that were withheld initially. The fact that some data reported to us are personal data affects the level at which we are able to report catch data publicly.

As explained above, until 2016 catch data had to be reported at District level, and since 2016 at assessable area level as defined in the Conservation Regulations. Proprietors may choose to include all their fisheries on the one form as long as, until 2016, their fisheries were in the same District, or, since 2016, they were all in the same assessable area. It is also the case that, as you say in your review request, all fisheries have a unique code assigned to them. A fishery code is unique to a fishery and will not cover more than one river. One form can have the returns of multiple fisheries on it, which may be from more than one river if those rivers are in the same District (or, since 2016, in the same assessable area).

I hope that the explanation as to how the data are collected from our side helps to explain why data are not always available from us at river or District Fishery Board level, as you may expect. It is the case that District Fishery Boards may request catch data from proprietors, but this is a process that takes place independently of the SG. We are not aware if the Conon Board (the relevant Board for the rivers that you are interested in) has requested this information from proprietors.

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