Are the Fish Health Inspectorate “routine inspections” pre-arranged with the owners of the salmon farm they are to visit? In particular, were the visits by the FHI to Scottish Sea Farms sites in Shetland (Cliftsound etc) of July 2022 arranged with the company in advance or were they completely unannounced?
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.
You can find information on Marine Scotland’s Fish Health Inspectorate (FHI) activities in the Fish Health Inspectorate Service Charter, which can be accessed at https://www.gov.scot/publications/fish-healthinspectorate-service-charter/pages/introduction/.
As stated in the charter, inspections are normally arranged with the site manager. Due to the logistics involved in inspections having pre-arranged visits are crucial in ensuring best use of civil service staff time and resources. It is more effective and efficient to make sure farm staff and vital equipment, such as vessels are available. However, as also stated in the charter:
“There is a statutory requirement for the inspectorate to carry out unannounced inspections under Regulation 2017/625 as it applies in Scotland and the Aquatic Animal Health (Scotland) Regulations 2009. Unannounced visits may also be necessary, for example in the event of an outbreak of a serious disease or when we are investigating alleged offences.”
Case information of inspections undertaken by the FHI are subject to proactive publication and relevant information can be found at https://www.gov.scot/collections/publication-of-fish-health-inspectorateinformation/. Unannounced inspections are referred to in these case files with the case type UNI.
The FHI inspections at the Scottish Sea Farm sites, Teisti Geo and Holms Geo, in July 2022 were prearranged.
For further context and information...
Under regulation 9 of the EIRs (our duty to provide advice and assistance) we would like to clarify the occurrence of unannounced inspections more fully. The explanation and information below is being provided to you out with the EIRs and so is not subject to review.
Since January 2017, the Marine Scotland FHI have conducted 26 unannounced inspections, which is approximately 1% of visits over that time period, including during the Covid-19 outbreak where logistics for site visits were more complex. As explained above, whilst unannounced inspections may be for enforcement or outbreak investigations, the majority of these unannounced inspections were for routine purposes.
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
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