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, Functional Units 3 and 4
Picture of Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

Updated: July 2019.

The small Norway lobster is usually caught by trawling, often using nets with small mesh sizes, and therefore bycatch of other species and habitat impacts on the seabed are among the biggest concerns in these fisheries. Where the fishery overlaps with a Marine Protected Area that has been designated to protect seabed features, this concern is increased. In addition, management generally isn’t following scientific advice - with measures being across a wide area, rather than on a stock-by-stock basis, allowing catches are to be above recommended levels in some places.

In the Skagerrak and Kattegat, the stock size is stable, and fishing pressure is within sustainable limits. Management measures here are at the level of this functional unit, and catches have been in line with advice. This rating is for the trawling component of the fishery, which accounts for 95% of catches. In the Kattegat, bycatch of cod by the Nephrops fishery is contributing to the decline in the cod stock there. The cod is mainly taken as bycatch in this fishery. Highly Selective Gears to avoid species like cod can be effective, but incentives to use such gears ended a couple of years ago.


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

This stock is data limited. There is no reference point for biomass but there are reference points for fishing mortality. The stock size is considered to be stable and the fishing pressure is within sustainable limits.

The 2018 underwater TV survey indicated an abundance of 4,887 million Nephrops. The estimated density increased by 38% from around 0.28 individuals per sq. metre in 2016 to around 0.4 in 2017, and slightly decreased in 2018. The estimated harvest rate for this stock is currently below FMSY (which is 7.9%). ICES advises that when the EU multiannual plan (MAP) for the North Sea is applied, catches in 2020 that correspond to the F ranges in the MAP are between 14 109 tonnes and 19 904 tonnes. The entire range is considered precautionary when applying the ICES advice rule, and the upper limit corresponds to FMSY. This is an 8% decrease from 2019 advice, owing to abundance being 4% lower in 2018 than in 2017 and updates to mean weights and discard rates.

Total allowable Catches (TACs) have been in line with or below the advice every year since 2012, and catches (including discards) have stayed within those limits.

The two functional units in Division 3.a, Skagerrak (FU 3) and Kattegat (FU 4), are considered to be a single stock.


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. In contrast to the other functional units, some management is implemented at the functional unit level for FUs 3 and 4. Catches are in line with advice and the stock appears to be stable.

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. Vessels are free to move between grounds, allowing effort to develop on some grounds in a largely uncontrolled way and result in overfishing. Therefore, scientists have repeatedly advised over the years that management should be implemented at the functional unit level, to better protect the Nephrops. This should provide the controls to ensure that catch opportunities and effort are compatible and in line with the scale of the resources in each of the stocks: functional unit TAC management is only one way of managing the fisheries and other approaches may also deliver the required safeguards. However, this advice is not being followed.

This stock is covered by the EU’s North Sea Multi Annual management Plan (MAP), covering eleven FUs: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 32, 33 and 34. Rather than holding strictly to MSY-based reference points, the MAP includes upper and lower ranges for fishing pressure (F). The ranges for F are set at the Functional Unit level and FU-specific management measures can be introduced if individual Nephrops functional units are found to be below the sustainable abundance levels.

Total allowable Catches (TACs) have been in line with or below the advice every year since 2012, and catches (including discards) have stayed within those limits. Catch advice for 2020 is between 14,109 tonnes and 19,904 tonnes, in line with the North Sea MAP ranges. The entire range is considered precautionary when applying the ICES advice rule and the upper limit is equivalent to FMSY.

The EU Landings Obligation came into force for Nephrops fisheries in the 80-99 mm trawl fisheries in 2016, meaning that below Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS) individuals, as well as adults that are unwanted (e.g. over-quota) must be landed rather than discarded at sea. As of January 2019, the discard ban applies to all species subject to catch limits. There are a number of exemptions that apply to Nephrops, including de minimis exemptions of up to 6% in some fisheries and full exemptions in fisheries where there is high survivability. MCRS for Nephrops in the North Sea is 25 mm carapace length (32mm for Denmark, Sweden and Norway). The ban would be expected to increase the number of below MCRS individuals and unwanted adults being landed, but throughout EU waters compliance with this regulation is generally poor and there is often no change in landings. It has been calculated that the proportion of catch of individuals below the MCRS might always be less than 6%, explaining this anomaly but not explaining the lack of landings of unwanted adults.

In 2016 Denmark and Sweden lowered their national MCRS from 40 to 32 mm carapace, reducing the proportion of the catch that was discarded. A discard ban was implemented in the Norwegian zone of the Skagerrak in 2015, retaining a minimum landing size of 40 mm carapace length. Discard rates decreased from 70% of the total catch (by number) in 2012 to 12% in 2016. They then increased to 32.3% in 2017, possibly owing to large recruitments, and 25.3% in 2018. The low discard rate in 2016 could be due to the change in MCRS, change in gear size selectivity, low recruitment, or a combination of all 3. In creel fisheries, Nephrops that are below the MCRS can be discarded because they are more likely to survive discarding, compared to when they are caught in generic Nephrops trawls

Denmark (roughly 70% of landings) and Sweden (around 28% of landings) catch most of the Nephrops in the Skagerrak and Kattegat, with some catches also by Norway and Germany. 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. For Swedish fleets, it is mandatory to use a 35 mm species selective grid together with an 8 m full square-mesh codend of 70 mm and extension piece when trawling for Nephrops in Swedish national waters. For Danish fleets, it is mandatory to use either the grid or the SELTRA trawl which compromise a 90 mm cod end with either a square-mesh panel (180 mm in the Kattegat and 140 mm in the Skagerrak) or 270 mm diamond mesh panel. In recent years, Swedish discard sampling has been carried out by on-board observers in both Skagerrak and Kattegat. Danish and Norwegian sampling are low, and in general, sampling coverage has not always been enough to cover seasonal changes in the fishery.

In the European Union (EU), EU fishing vessels can fish up to 12 nautical miles of any Member State coast, and closer by agreement. There is overarching fisheries legislation for all Member States, but implementation varies between fisheries, Member States and sea basins.
The EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) is the primary overarching policy. Its key environmental objectives are to restore and maintain harvested species at healthy levels (above BMSY), and apply the precautionary and ecosystem-based approaches to fisheries management. To achieve the MSY objective, the MSY exploitation rate is supposed to be achieved by 2020, but this seems unlikely to happen.
The CFP also introduced a Landing Obligation (LO) which bans the discarding at sea of species which are subject to catch limits. Some exemptions apply to species with high post-capture survival, and where avoiding unwanted catches is very difficult. These exemptions are outlined in regional discard plans. Despite quota ‘uplift’ being granted to fleets under the LO, available evidence suggests there has been widespread non-compliance with the policy, and illegal and unreported discarding is likely occurring.
Multi-Annual Plans (MAPs) are a tool for implementing the CFP regionally, with one in place or being developed for each sea basin. They specify fishing mortality targets and ranges for the main targeted species, as well as lower biomass reference points. If populations drop below these points it should trigger a management response. The MAPs also empower Member States to jointly apply measures such as closures, gear or capacity limits, and bycatch limits. There is concern however that the MAPs do not provide adequate safeguards to maintain all stocks at healthy levels.
The EU Technical Measures regulation addresses how, where and when fishing can take place in order to limit unwanted catches and ecosystem impacts. There are common measures that apply to all EU sea basins, and regional measures that vary between sea basins. Measures include Minimum Conservation Reference Sizes (MCRS, previously Minimum Landing Sizes, MLS), gear specifications, mesh sizes, closed areas, and bycatch limits.
The Control Regulation, which is being revised in 2019, addresses application of and compliance with the above, e.g. keeping catches within limits, recording and sharing data, and satellite tracking of vessels over 12 metres (VMS).

Capture Information

Criterion score: 1 info

Denmark (roughly 70% of landings) and Sweden (around 28% of landings) catch most of the Nephrops in the Skagerrak and Kattegat, with some catches also by Norway and Germany. Trawling accounts for around 95% of catches and creeling for 5%. Creeling is mainly carried out by Sweden, and mainly in the Skagerrak.

According to ICES, cod and sole are significant by-catch species in these fisheries in the Skagerrak and Kattegat, and even if data on catches, including discards, of the bycatch gradually become available, they have not yet been used in the management. Scientists have, for many years, recommended the use of species selective grids in these fisheries, as per legislation for Swedish national waters. New technical measures (Swedish grid and SELTRA trawl) were implemented in 2013. 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.

There is a discard ban in European Union and Norwegian waters in the Skagerrak and Kattegat.

This species is caught as part of a mixed demersal fishery, so bycatch can include cod, haddock, whiting, saithe, plaice and sole. In the North Sea, plaice and saithe are in a good state and fishing pressure within sustainable levels. Haddock and sole are in a good state, but fishing pressure is too high. Whiting is slightly below sustainable levels, and fishing pressure is too high. Cod is in a very poor state, and fishing pressure is too high. Recent measures to reduce whitefish bycatch (e.g. cod) required vessels in the northern North Sea using mesh size of below 100mm to employ highly selective gears (HSG), e.g. Gamrie Bay Trawl or Faithlie Cod Avoidance Panel. In 2012 most vessels operating in the northern North Sea and the Farn Deeps fished exclusively with specified highly selective gears (reducing cod catches by 60% by weight) or had installed 200 mm square mesh panels.

Endangered, threatened and protected species caught in the catch can include some skates, rays and sharks. These species are relatively hardy, and can survive when they are discarded, but their survival rates largely depend on how they were caught and handled. Mortality rates in otter trawls are shown to vary between 10-65%, depending on fishing and handling methods. Those vessels which employ codes of conduct on skate and ray handling and/or reduce the risk of their capture, will improve their survival rates, though many of these methods aren’t implemented over whole functional unit or regional levels.

Nephrops are mainly found in soft mud habitats, which are also associated other burrowing animals like other crustaceans, bivalves (including the long-lived and slow-growing ocean quahog), and polychaete worms. They are also associated with emergent epifauna such as soft corals and sea pens, which are vulnerable to interactions with bottom-towed fishing gear. Disturbance from trawl gear on the seabed, especially over long periods of time, is likely to affect the structure, species composition, and biodiversity of the burrowed mud community. 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 are Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in this Functional Unit, some of which are designated to protect seabed features from damaging activities. This Nephrops fishery overlaps with parts of these MPAs, but the proportion of the catch coming from these areas is expected to be relatively low in relation to the unit of assessment (i.e. less than 20% of the catch), and so these impacts have not been assessed within the scale of this rating. Given the important role that MPAs have in recovering the health and function of our seas, MCS encourages the supply chain to identify if their specific sources are being caught from within MPAs. If sources are suspected of coming from within designated and managed MPAs, MCS advises businesses to: establish if the fishing activity is operating legally inside a designated and managed MPA; and to request evidence from the fishery or managing authority to demonstrate that the activity is not damaging to protected features or a threat to the conservation objectives of the site(s).


EU, 2018. Regulation 2018/973 establishing a multiannual plan for demersal stocks in the North Sea and the fisheries exploiting those stocks. Available at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/PDF/?uri=CELEX:32018R0973&from=EN [Accessed on 02.07.2019].

Hinz, H., Prieto, V., and Kaiser, M. J., 2009. Trawl disturbance on benthic communities: chronic effects and experimental predictions. Ecological Applications: A Publication of the Ecological Society of America, 19(3), 761-73. Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19425437 [Accessed 23.09.2019].

ICES, 2018. Report of the Working Group on the Assessment of Demersal Stocks in the North Sea and Skagerrak (WGNSSK), 24 April - 3 May 2018, Oostende, Belgium. ICES CM 2018/ACOM: 22pp. Available at http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Expert%20Group%20Report/acom/2018/WGNSSK/01-WGNSSK%20Report%202018.pdf [Accessed on 02.07.2019].

ICES, 2019. Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in Division 3.a, Functional units 3 and 4 (Skagerrak and Kattegat). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee. ICES Advice 2019, 2019, nep.fu.3-4, doi: 10.17895/ices.advice.4864. http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2019/2019/nep.fu.3-4.pdf [Accessed on 09.07.2019].

Seafish, 2018. RASS Profile: Nephrops in the Skagerrak-Kattegat, FU3-4, Demersal otter trawl. Available at https://www.seafish.org/risk-assessment-for-sourcing-seafood/profile/nephrops-in-the-skagerrak-kattegat-fu3-4-demersal-otter-trawl [Accessed on 10.07.2019]

WWF, 2019. Remote Electronic Monitoring in UK Fisheries Management 2017. Available at https://www.wwf.org.uk/sites/default/files/2017-10/Remote%20Electronic%20Monitoring%20in%20UK%20Fisheries%20Management_WWF.pdf [Accessed on 02.07.2019].

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.