Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi

Nephrops norvegicus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Pot or creel
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 two 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 Norway lobster caught by creeling (pots) - a more sustainable method, with low levels of bycatch and low impact on the seabed.


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

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.

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: 0 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.

Skippers generally aim for where Nephrops populations are likely to be highest, therefore, bycatch in creel fisheries is generally low. Bycatch generally includes whelks, and hermit crabs. The discarded catch is small (around 6% of total catch) and usually includes brown crab, velvet crab and lobster, which are likely to survive discarding.

Creel fisheries are exempt from the discard bans, as Nephrops are likely to survive after being discarded from these fisheries.

The impact of creels on the seabed is likely to be low: they are normally set on a mud surface but can sometimes impact sessile species. The impact on sea pens is considered minimal.


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].

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].