- 7 Jun 2021
Date received: 29 Apr 2021
Date responded: 26 May 2021
All data collected, research undertaken, and findings published by (or on behalf of) Marine Scotland Science relating to the razor clam fishery dating from 1 February 2017 to 29 April 2021.
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.
An exception under regulation 10(4)(d) (unfinished or incomplete information) applies to some of the information requested. This exception applies because the electro-fishery for razor clams is an ongoing scientific trial. The trial aims to determine the effects of electrofishing on the species, and provide an improved evidence base for the future management of the fishery.
There are several strands to the science programme, and Marine Scotland Science (MSS) continues to collect a range of biological and fisheries data under the razor clam trial. Live razor samples, provided by trial participants, will be used to derive length/weight relationships and information on size at maturity and spawning period of razor clams in the different trial areas. Participants are also providing measurements of the razor clams landed from different trial areas. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the live sampling programme has been suspended, but we continue to collect the data from fishers and intend to establish live sampling as soon as possible.
Progress and findings to date are published in annual summaries that are made available online at the following links.
- 2018-2019 - 00548864.pdf (nrscotland.gov.uk)
- 2019-2020 - Update: Electrofishing for razor clams trial (1 February 2019 - 31 January 2020) - gov.scot (www.gov.scot)
The next annual report is due to be published shortly.
The data will be analysed, and results reported publicly, when data collection is complete.
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 on completion of data collection and analysis. However, this is outweighed by the public interest in ensuring that incomplete information, which is still being collected and analysed, is not disclosed when it might misinform the public.
A further exception under regulation 11(2) (personal data) of the EIRs applies to some of the information requested.
This applies to remote electronic monitoring (REM) data, which is being analysed to study where catches are taken, and combining fishing effort and landings data to monitor landings per unit effort (LPUE). REM data are the personal data of a third party and disclosing them 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 Association for Marine Science (SAMS) have previously surveyed some of the fishing grounds to provide data on the densities and sizes of razor clams. Previous survey reports, written in collaboration with Scottish Government scientists, are available online (SMFS03.pdf (marine.gov.scot); Fox, C.J., McLay, A and Dickens, S. 2019. Development and application of electrofishing with towed video as a new survey method for razor clams (Ensis spp.). Journal of Fisheries Research 214: 76-84) and the results of the 2020 survey will be available shortly (the report was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic).
In addition, SAMS (with support from MSS) successfully secured funding for a PhD studentship to study the organism and ecological impacts of electrofishing in Scottish shallow coastal habitats. This three year study commenced in October 2020 and the student is currently conducting a literature review.
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