18th December

Why is a publicly-funded document not available in Ireland?

Inshore Ireland masthead

Our lead story outlines the frustration experienced by a representative of an aquaculture producer organisation trying to obtain from an official source in Ireland a copy of the final complete report of the SUMBAWS Project (SUstainable Management of interactions Between Aquaculture and Wild Salmonid fish).

SUMBAWS – by all accounts is a significant report and had a working budget of just over €2.3 million and cost EU tax payers more than €1.5 million.

It involved participants from Ireland, Scotland, Netherlands and Norway. To date, at least two attempts have been made to get a copy of it through the Freedom of Information mechanism, without success. A request for it using the Public Access to Environmental Information process also came to naught.

Inshore Ireland also tried to obtain a copy through normal channels also without success and have now invoked an FOI. Meanwhile however, we obtained a copy almost immediately upon request from a source in Norway.

EU Commission

Our lead story [vol10.5] notes that SUMBAWS – or parts of it at least – were referenced in a formal complaint to the EU Commission which resulted in a five-year investigation that caused more than mere inconvenience to many in the aquaculture sector. The fact that at least one body, and who knows how many more, appears to have had a copy of SUMBAWS at a time when it was being denied to others, is significant.

Almost nine years later, no one has succeeded in obtaining the final SUMBAWS from official sources in Ireland. And those who request it are advised to contact the University of St Andrews or the European Union for a copy.

Difficulty to obtain a copy bordering on seemingly outright obstruction is gravely disturbing and flies in the face of public access to information enshrined in the Aarhus Convention. The Convention upholds the right of every person to have access to information about the environment, the right to participate in decision-making and the right of access to justice in environmental matters.

Ireland signed up to the Convention in 1998 but took until June 20, 2013, to ratify. Clearly, these rights are not being exercised and this evolving series of events leave more questions than answers. 

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