Red rocks flapper skate Marine Protected Areas (MPAs): EIR release

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


Information requested

1. Please list the legislation and other commitments which Marine Scotland is taking account of in deciding its permanent proposals for the protection of flapper skate within and around the MPA.

2. Please provide the scientific information which Marine Scotland have used to base their current view that it is “precautionary” to only protect the area where eggs are found plus a three times depth buffer zone and explain how this buffer zone offers sufficient protection for incoming adults laying eggs and hatchlings of this critically endangered species from trawling, dredging and longlining.

3. Please provide the scientific information held by Marine Scotland identifying habitat types within 20 miles of the MPA.

4. In the process leading up to the designation, NatureScot advised Marine Scotland to include a much larger buffer zone in the MPA. Please could you supply this report and the scientific evidence used by Marine Scotland to decide not to take this advice.

5. At the online meeting on the 24th of November 2021 it was stated that there had been no trawling or dredging within the areas adjacent to the egg site within the last two years. What has the financial value of the area within 3 miles of the centre of the MPA been to the (a) scallop dredging sector and (b) the prawn trawling sector expressed in value per year for each year over the past 10 years?

6. Please could you supply under EIA/FOI the VMS and/or AIS tracks of (a) scallop dredgers and (b) trawlers within the area up to 20 miles from the red rocks MPA for the past 10 years. If it is possible to differentiate by the speed of the vessel whether the vessel was likely to be fishing or passing through the area please supply this information as well.

7. What scientific evidence have Marine Scotland used to assess the potential damage to both adults eggs and young flapper skate of (a) trawling, (b) scallop dredging, (c) long-lining, (d) creel fishing, (e) scallop divers and (f) sports divers?

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.

I attach a copy of most of the information you requested, however some exemptions have been  applied in relation regulation 6(1)(b) of the EIRs, where we do not have to give you information  which is already publicly available and easily accessible to you in another form or format and under regulation(s) -12(4)(e) Internal communications. These are outlined below.

The answer to your questions are:

1. Please list the legislation and other commitments which Marine Scotland is taking account of in deciding its permanent proposals for the protection of flapper skate within and around the MPA.

There is a large amount of legislation that governs how Marine Scotland develops proposal, however the main legislation which we will take into account for the permanent designation of the sites is listed below:

  • Marine (Scotland) Act 2010
  • UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Bill
  • Islands (Scotland) Act 2018
  • The Equality Act 2010 (Specific Duties) (Scotland) Regulations 2012
  • National Marine Plan
  • Marine Strategy Regulations 2010

Additionally the Programme for Government 21/22 commitment to deliver fisheries management measures for existing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) where these are not already in place, as well as key coastal biodiversity locations outside of these sites, by March 2024 at the latest is also taken into account.

2. Please provide the scientific information which Marine Scotland have used to base their current view that it is “precautionary” to only protect the area where eggs are found plus a three times depth buffer zone and explain how this buffer zone offers sufficient protection for incoming adults laying eggs and hatchlings of this critically endangered species from trawling, dredging and long-lining.

Most of the information you have requested is available from:
https://www.gov.scot/publications/protection-flapper-skate-naturescot-advice-scottish-governmentregarding-flapper-skate-eggs-inner-sound/
https://hub.jncc.gov.uk/assets/25233dda-37cb-4abe-b85b-14f743c45f37
https://data.admiralty.co.uk/portal/apps/sites/#/marine-data-portal/pages/seabed-mapping-services
https://scotlandsnature.blog/

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. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website(s) listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

In addition the information outlined in attachments 1-6 was identified as within scope of this request.

3. Please provide the scientific information held by Marine Scotland identifying habitat types within 20 miles of the MPA.

Most of the information you have requested is available from:
https://marinescotland.atkinsgeospatial.com/nmpi/

An additional document identified in the searches is outlined in attachment 7.

4. In the process leading up to the designation, NatureScot advised Marine Scotland to include a much larger buffer zone in the MPA. Please could you supply this report and the scientific evidence used by Marine Scotland to decide not to take this advice.

Most of the information you have requested is available from:
https://www.gov.scot/publications/protection-flapper-skate-naturescot-advice-scottish-governmentregarding-flapper-skate-eggs-inner-sound/

The depth buffer is derived from trawl warp lengths as described in UK Guidance on Defining Boundaries for Marine SACs for Annex I Habitat Sites Fully Detached from the Coast | JNCC Resource Hub

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. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website(s) listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

The scientific advice is outlined in the above links and documents. An additional document identified in the searches is outlined in attachment 8.

The final decision by Ministers on the boundary of the original urgent MPA was based on the scientific advice provided, including the boundary options, and feedback provided from engagement with stakeholders.

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(s) under regulation(s) -12(4)(e) Internal communications of the EIRs applies to that information.

5. At the online meeting on the 24th of November 2021 it was stated that there had been no trawling or dredging within the areas adjacent to the egg site within the last two years. What has the financial value of the area within 3 miles of the centre of the MPA been to the (a) scallop dredging sector and (b) the prawn trawling sector expressed in value per year for each year over the past 10 years?

The catch values between 2011 and 2020 for 43E3 and 43E4 for the 2 sectors in the request are outlined in attachment 9.

6. Please could you supply under EIA/FOI the VMS and/or AIS tracks of (a) scallop dredgers and (b) trawlers within the area up to 20 miles from the red rocks MPA for the past 10 years. If it is possible to differentiate by the speed of the vessel whether the vessel was likely to be fishing or passing through the area please supply this information as well.

The VMS data we have available for this areas has been provided in attachment 10. Unfortunately data is only available for 2017 onward. Vessels operating at fishing speeds have been highlighted in red.

More broad scale data from 2009-2017 is available at ODIMS - Map: OSPAR Bottom Fishing Intensity - Surface & Subsurface

7. What scientific evidence have Marine Scotland used to assess the potential damage to both adults eggs and young flapper skate of (a) trawling, (b) scallop dredging, (c) long-lining, (d) creel fishing, (e) scallop divers and (f) sports divers?

All of the information you have requested is available from https://www.gov.scot/publications/protection-flapperskate-naturescot-advice-scottish-government-regarding-flapper-skate-eggs-inner-sound/
https://marine.gov.scot/sma/assessment/case-study-flapper-skate-loch-sunart-sound-jura-mpa
https://blogs.gov.scot/marine-scotland/2021/07/14/critically-endangered-flapper-skate-study/

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. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website(s) listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

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.

FOI - 202100259749 - Information Released - Documents 1 to 4

FOI - 202100259749 - Information Released - Documents 5 to 8

FOI - 202100259749 - Information Released - Document 9

FOI - 202100259749 - Information Released - Document 10

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
EH1 3DG

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