Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi

Nephrops norvegicus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Skagerrak and Kattegat
Stock detail — 3a (FU 3 and 4)
Picture of Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

The stock status of Nephrops in this area is unknown, but there appears to be no concern for either the biomass or the fishing mortality.

Nephrops fisheries are managed mainly using area restrictions, a total allowable catch, effort restrictions and technical measures. However, these areas are often too large to manage Nephrops effectively. This has historically resulted in fishing vessels concentrating their effort on favoured fishing grounds in a largely uncontrolled way, leading to overfishing and depletion of some Nephrops populations in the past, like in the Farn Deeps. Therefore, scientists advise that management should be implemented at the functional unit (FU) level.

Nephrops are caught predominantly by bottom trawling. Trawling for nephrops results is associated with large quantities of bycatch, including species such as cod and juvenile fish. To mitigate this, the mixed fishery, which fishes for whitefish now has a minimum mesh size of 120 mm (diamond mesh) and around 50% of the Swedish quota is allocated to trawlers using a Swedish grid, or a size-selective trawl, which reduce whitefish bycatch.

You can increase the sustainability of the scampi you eat by choosing nephrops caught using creels. If sourcing trawl-caught nephrops, ask for those caught in nets with separator grids and larger meshes (80 mm is the mesh size in general use) which reduce the risk to bycatch species and discards.


Norway Lobster (also known as langoustine or scampi) live in burrows on the seabed. They are limited to a muddy habitat and require sediment with a silt and clay content to excavate burrows. Their distribution therefore is determined by the availability of suitable habitat. They occur over a wide area in the North East Atlantic, from Iceland to North Africa and into the Mediterranean, and constitute a valuable fishery for many countries. Males grow relatively quickly to around 6 cm, but seldom exceed 10 years old. Females grow more slowly and can reach 20 years old. Females mature at about 3 years. In the autumn they lay eggs which remain attached to the tail for 9 months (known as being “berried”). During this time the berried females rarely emerge from their burrows and therefore do not commonly appear in trawl catches, although they may be caught using baited creels. This habit of remaining in their burrows has probably afforded their populations some resilience to fishing pressure. Egg hatching occurs in the spring, and females emerge in spring/summer to moult and mate.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

Stock Area

Skagerrak and Kattegat

Stock information

The stock status of Nephrops in this area is unknown, but there appears to be no concern for either the biomass or the fishing mortality.

The nephrop biomass in this area is unknown relative to reference points but stock size has recently increased. The harvest rate is below the reference point (Maximum Sustainable Yield). The species has a high resilience. There is no concern for biomass or fishing mortality.


Criterion score: 0.5 info

There is currently no management plan in the Kattegat-Skagerrak area. There are multiple management measures and a variety of enforcement is employed in the fishery. The main management measures include: a Cod Recovery Zone; quotas are allocated to more selective gear types, for example, in Sweden 30% is allocated to creels, 50% to grid trawls and the remaining 20% to other trawls; an minimum conservation reference size of 32mm, but Norway apply a 40 mm.

Whilst management measures exist in the fishery, quota management may not be wholly effective: quota is not applied at the functional unit level and therefore, the stock is at risk of overfishing. Nephrops stock assessments are conducted by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). Stock assessments are produced for 33 areas across the Northeast Atlantic, called functional units. However, management is applied to a separate 18 areas, called management units. These management units broadly overlap with the functional units, but not very effectively, previously resulting in overfishing. Therefore, scientists advise that management should be implemented at the functional unit level, to better protect the Nephrops.

The quota used in this area has been in line with scientific advice: ICES advised that catches in 2017 should be no more than 13099 tonnes, in that year ICES estimated total catch was 6234 tonnes. In this area, there is a high discard ratio of undersized Nephrops (representing around 63%), but the most recent ICES report shows that discard rates represent about a fifth of landings.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Nephrops live in burrows in the seabed. Therefore, to capture Nephrops, fishing vessels use fishing gear near or on the seabed such as demersal trawls and creels. Nephrops are predominantly caught using demersal trawls.

Demersal otter trawls use small mesh-sized nets to catch Nephrops and therefore, it can be an unselective fishing gear, catching and discarding a relatively high amount of undersized Nephrops, various whitefish species and flatfish (e.g. haddock, whiting, cod, saithe, hake, plaice, lemon sole, witch, megrim and monkfish). Bycatch that are usually caught in Skagerrak are not usually at risk.

To mitigate this, the mixed fishery for whitefish and Nephrops now has a minimum mesh size of 120 mm (diamond mesh). The Nephrops fishery in this area is highly restricted by the EU long-term cod (Gadus morhua) management plan and bycatch reduction devices (called the Swedish grid) have been implemented into the Swedish fishery since 2004. Some fleets around 50% of the Swedish quota is allocated to trawlers using a Swedish grid, or a size-selective trawl, both of which reduce whitefish bycatch compared to regular trawling.

Nephrops are found in muddy habitats, which are relatively sensitive to trawling impacts. In the Northern North Sea and Skagerrak, there is a “high sub-surface footprint”, which is “almost exclusively” caused by “high fishing intensities with bottom trawls targeting Nephrops and mixed fish which have a significant sub-surface impact”. There is also an Marine Protected Area in Kattegat.

There are a number of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in this Functional Unit which are in need of protection from damaging activities. The nephrops fishery is known to overlap with parts of these MPAs, but it is not clear by how much. For these components, MCS considers bottom trawling in MPAs as a default red rating unless there is evidence (such as an environmental impact assessment (EIA)) indicating the activity does not damage the integrity of the site.


ICES Advice 2018. Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in Division 3.a, functional units 3 and 4 (Skagerrak and Kattegat) . Published 29 June 2018. https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.pub.4433. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/nep.fu.3-4.pdf

BENTHIS. 2015. Deliverable 2.3: Benthic impact of fisheries in European waters: the distribution and intensity of bottom trawling. Available at: http://archimer.ifremer.fr/doc/00310/42138/54476.pdf

Hornborg,S., Jonsson, P., Skad, M., Ulmestrand, M., Valentinsson, D., Eigaard, O.R., Feekings, J., Nielsen, J.R., Bastardie, F. Lavgren,J., 2017. New policies may call for new approaches: the case of the Swedish Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) fisheries in the Kattegat and Skagerrak, ICES Journal of Marine Science, 74 (1) pp: 134-145. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsw153.