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Subject: Re: Data Bases and Confidentiality
From: Andrew Applegate <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Academic forum on fisheries ecology and related topics <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 3 Dec 1996 16:43:59 -0500
Content-Type:text/plain
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text/plain (88 lines)


     In the USA, fishery statistics that the government requires businesses
to submit as part of a fishery management plan are governed by the Magnuson
Act.  Section 303(d) of the Act states:

     "Any statistic submmitted to the Secretary by a ny person in compliance
with any requirement under subsections (a) and (b) shall be confidential and
shall not be disclosed; except

(1)  to Federal employees and Council employees who are responsible for
management plan development and monitoring;

(2) to State employees pursuant to an agreement with the Secretary that
prevents public disclosure of the identity or business of any person; or

(3) when required by court order.

     The Secretary shall, by regulation, prescribe such procedures as may be
necessary to preserve such confidentiality, except that the Secretary may
release or make public any such statistics in any aggregate or summary form
which does not directly or indirectly disclose the identity or business of
any person who submits such statistics.  Notheing in this subsection shall
be interpreted or construed to prevent the use for conservation and
management purposes by the Secretary, or with the approval of the Secretary,
the Council, of any statistic submitted in compliance with a requirement
under subsection (a) or (b)."

     The regulations, pertaining to confidentiality of statistics, are
published in the Code of Federal Regulations, Chapter 50, Part 603.  I don't
believe that Chapter 50 is yet available through the WWW, but a good place
to look is:
http://asa.ugl.lib.umich.edu/chdocs/federalregs/fulltext.html.

     Essentially, U.S. fishery statistics are confidential if the
information was derived from less than 3 business entities, no matter how
long ago the statistics were collected.  Confidential data include
information regarding the type and quantity of fishing gear used, catch by
species in numbers of fish or weight thereof, areas in which fishing
occurred, time of fishing, number of hauls, and the estimated processing
capacity of, and the actual processing capacity utilized by, U.S. fish
processors.  This definition includes unidentified data (within a
statistical area, for example) that was the result of activities of less
than three vessels.

     Sometimes, confidentiality forces aggregation of statistics to levels
that are not very helpful.  IMHO, it is necessary to preserve
confidentiality for a finite period when it could be sensitive information
and it could be used to gain a competitive advantage.  This period might
vary by type of data.  Processing capacity, for example might be sensitive
for a longer period than catch per tow data within a statistical area.  Both
types of data are treated equally under the current USA regulations.

     I hope this description helps.

Andy Applegate


R. Shotton, FAO, Rome. writes:

>A related issue that I see surfacing in the question of access to data is
>that of confidentiality.  I would be interest to learn of national
>practices, eg, what do national laws say about releasing data that
>identifies the results of single indivuals/companies.  I often deal with
>countries that publish "all the details" and generally loose the argument
>when I assert that when they release all the details then what they get from
>the fisheremen/companies won't be the accurate details.  They feel that as
>fisheries are in the public domain, the results of the activities should be
>in the public domain.
>
>I know that in Canada, laws exist outside of the Department of Fisheries
>guaranteeing confidentiality of any data provided to the Government.  In
>fact the RCMP (the Mounties!) used to make occassional visits to fisheries
>departments to ensure that proper lockable filing cabinets were being used,
>etc.
>
>Can other list holders relate respective national practices??
>
>R. Shotton
>FAO, Rome.
>
>
Andrew Applegate
email: [log in to unmask]
FAX: 617/565-8937
Voice: 617/231-0422

The opinions expressed above are mine, and mine alone.  They do not
represent Council policy, nor do they represent the general opinion of the
Council.

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