Publication - FOI/EIR release

Information relating to the use of hydrogen peroxide in salmon farming: EIR release

Published: 2 Mar 2021

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

Published:
2 Mar 2021
Information relating to the use of hydrogen peroxide in salmon farming: EIR release
FOI reference: FOI/202000122166
Date received: 9 Dec 2020
Date responded: 29 Jan 2021
Information requested

Please provide information on the use of hydrogen peroxide in salmon farming - via both wellboats, tarpaulins and any other methods - since 1 January 2016.

Please include Excel spreadsheets, data, emails, letters, reports and any other information related to the use of hydrogen peroxide in salmon farming in Scotland.

Please also include any information including emails, Cabinet Briefings and other details relating to the non-reporting and non-recording of hydrogen peroxide use.

For example, please explain why the use of hydrogen peroxide is not included via the 'Scotland's Aquaculture' database:  http://aquaculture.scotland.gov.uk/data/fish_farms_monthly_biomass_and_treatment_reports.asp  

Scottish Salmon Watch finds it difficult to believe that this was the only use of hydrogen peroxide in 2019 - where is the data for use of hydrogen peroxide via tarpaulins and any other methods of application?

Another FOI replied to by the Scottish Government on 30 September 2020 (FOI-202000084355) detailed an Excel spreadsheet of data of chemical use via wellboats for 2018: https://www.gov.scot/publications/foi-202000084355/ - including data on the use of Hydrogen Peroxide. Again, Scottish Salmon Watch struggles to believe that Grieg Seafood was the only user of Hydrogen Peroxide in 2018.

Provide data on the use of hydrogen peroxide since 1 January 2016 (effectively an update on the data published by GAAIA in February 2017) and provide information pertaining to why the use of hydrogen peroxide has remained unreported, unrecorded and/or unpublished including any discussions with SEPA, the SSPO, Mowi and other salmon farming companies. 

Response

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. 

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested. Therefore we are refusing part of your request under the exception at regulation 10(4)(a) of the EIRs. The reason why that exception applies is explained in the Annex to this letter.

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 an exception under regulation 10(5) (d) (confidentiality of proceedings) of the EIRs applies to that information. The reason why this exception applies is explained in the Annex to this letter.

Under Regulation 9 of the EIRs (duty to provide advice and assistance), we considered whether to refuse the penultimate part of this request (Please therefore provide data on the use of hydrogen peroxide since 1 January 2016) as ‘manifestly unreasonable’. Essentially, regulation 10(4)(b) is concerned with the effect of a request, or series of requests, on the authority and its staff.

The following factors will be relevant to determining whether a request is manifestly unreasonable:

(i) It would impose a significant burden on the public authority.
(ii) It does not have a serious purpose or value.
(iii) It is designed to cause disruption or annoyance to the public authority.
(iv) It has the effect of harassing the public authority.
(v) It would otherwise, in the opinion of a reasonable person, be considered to be manifestly unreasonable or disproportionate.

The request may also be manifestly unreasonable if:

(i) there is no additional information that can be provided because all relevant information has already been disclosed.

The decision to reject a request on manifestly unreasonable grounds is one the Scottish Government does not take lightly and very rarely exercises. We recognise and encourage disclosing information as part of an open, transparent and accountable government, and to inform public debate.

However, we considered if the servicing of your request, a repetition of previous requests, would impose a significant burden on MS-LOT. We considered if complying with it would require a disproportionate amount of time, and the diversion of an unreasonable proportion of our resources away from other statutory and regulatory functions.

Data on the use of hydrogen peroxide since 1 January 2016 is included in the completed Discharge Returns we have already released to you under previous information requests, however, on this occasion we will answer your request. Below are the links and the dates of the responses we have previously provided to you on this topic.

Some of the information you have requested is available from on the Scottish Government Publications website at the following web link: Publications - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)

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.

  • The completed 2015 (finalised in 2016), 2016 & 2017 Discharge Returns have already been provided to you under the EIRs request case number FoI/18/01265, which you made on 1 May 2018 and which we responded to on 28 June 2018. Our response to this request was published on the Scottish Government website on 2 July 2018: Wellboats chemical licensing and related database information: EIR release - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
  • The completed 2018 Discharge Returns have already been provided to you under the EIRs request case number FoI/19/02442, which you made on 23 October 2019 and we responded to on 18 November 2019. Our response to this request was published on the Scottish Government website on 19 November 2019: https://www.gov.scot/publications/foi-19-02442/
  • Further to this, on 30 September 2020, under our response to a review request of your EIRs request case number 202000058631 (review case number 202000084355), we released the same information to you in a more accessible format (an excel spreadsheet) in order to be as helpful as possible. Our response to this review request was published on the Scottish Government website on 10 November 2020: https://www.gov.scot/publications/foi-202000084355/
  • The completed 2019 Discharge Returns were provided to you as an excel spreadsheet under your EIRs request case number 202000084741, made on 2 September 2020 and released on 30 September 2020. Our response to this request was published on the Scottish Government website on 9  November 2020: https://www.gov.scot/publications/foi-202000084741/

4. The answers to your questions posed are provided below:

(i) Please explain why the use of Hydrogen Peroxide is not included via the 'Scotland's Aquaculture' database - This is not a question that the Scottish Government can provide an answer for. MS-LOT provide completed Discharge returns to SEPA each year for publishing, which includes data on the use of hydrogen peroxide. The full annual SPRI data returns inclusive of wellboat information can be found here.

(ii) Scottish Salmon Watch finds it difficult to believe that this was the only use of Hydrogen Peroxide in 2019 - Scottish Salmon Watch finds it difficult to believe that this was the only use of Hydrogen Peroxide in 2019.

(iii) Another FOI replied to by the Scottish Government on 30 September 2020 (FOI-202000084355) detailed an Excel spreadsheet of data of chemical use via wellboats for 2018: https://www.gov.scot/publications/foi-202000084355/ - including data on the use of Hydrogen Peroxide. Again, Scottish Salmon Watch struggles to believe that Grieg Seafood was the only user of Hydrogen Peroxide in 2018 -MS-LOT can confirm we have reported all data we hold on the use of Hydrogen Peroxide in salmon farming in 2018 to SEPA.

ANNEX
REASONS FOR NOT PROVIDING INFORMATION

The Scottish Government does not have the information:

An exception under regulation 10(4)(a) (information not held) of the EIRs applies to some of the information you have requested.

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 hold the following information you have requested:

  •  We do not yet hold completed Discharge Returns for 2021.
  •  We do not hold any letters or reports related to the use of Hydrogen Peroxide in salmon farming in Scotland.
  •  We do not hold information including emails, Cabinet Briefings and other details relating to the nonreporting and non-recording of Hydrogen Peroxide use.
  •  We do not hold information pertaining to why the use of Hydrogen Peroxide has remained unreported, unrecorded and/or unpublished including any discussions with SEPA, the SSPO, Mowi and other salmon farming companies.
  •  We do not hold information on the use of Hydrogen Peroxide in salmon farming via tarpaulins. The Scottish Government only hold information on the use of Hydrogen Peroxide in salmon farming via wellboats (see above our response under point 3).

However, you may wish to contact the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) at Contact | Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) who may be able to provide you with information on the use of Hydrogen Peroxide in salmon farming via tarpaulins.

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 the information you have requested, as detailed above, clearly we cannot provide information which we do not hold.

An Exception Applies:
An exception under regulation 10(5)(d) (Confidentiality of proceedings) of the EIRs applies to some of the information you have requested.

An exception under regulation 10(5)(d) of the EIRs (Confidentiality of proceedings) applies to some of the information you have requested because it is internal legal advice and disclosure would breach legal professional privilege.

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, this is outweighed by the strong public interest in maintaining the right to confidentiality of communications between legal advisers and clients, to ensure that Ministers and officials are able to receive legal advice in confidence, like any other public or private organisation.

About FOI

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.

Contact

Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Email: ceu@gov.scot
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road
Edinburgh
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