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: November 2020

In the Skagerrak and Kattegat, the Nephrops 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 generally sustainable fishing 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

The Nephrops stock in the Skagerrak is data limited. There is no reference point for biomass but there are reference points for fishing mortality. There does not appear to be concern for the biomass, and fishing pressure is within sustainable limits. Nephrops have a low vulnerability to fishing pressure (14 out of 100).

The 2019 underwater TV survey indicated an abundance of 4,502 million Nephrops, a slight decrease from the 2017 peak of 5,093 million. Estimated density increased from around 0.28 individuals per sq. metre in 2016 to around 0.4 in 2017, and slightly decreased to 0.354 in 2019. The estimated harvest rate for this stock in 2019 was 3.71% - below FMSY (which is 7.9%). Landings per unit of effort have increased since 2015.

ICES advises that when the EU multiannual plan (MAP) for the North Sea is applied, catches in 2021 that correspond to the F ranges in the MAP are between 12 465 tonnes and 17 585 tonnes, assuming recent discard rates. The entire range is considered precautionary when applying the ICES advice rule, and the upper limit corresponds to FMSY. This is an 11.7% decrease from 2019 advice, likely owing to abundance being lower than in 2018.

Catch limits (Total allowable Catches, TACs) have been set in line with or below the advice every year since 2012, and actual 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.

A 2011 study on Nephrops in the Clyde found a high prevalence of plastics and suggested that this could have implications for the health of the stock - this may have relevance for other Nephrops stocks. Some of the plastics were sourced to fishing waste. Studies have shown that the effects of climate change - warmer waters, reduced oxygen levels, higher ocean acidity, and higher levels of heavy metals - can negatively impact Nephrops’ larval development and make adults more susceptible to disease. Lower oxygen levels can also cause Nephrops to leave their burrows, making them easier to catch.


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 is declining, but from a high level.

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: 3-10, and 32-34. 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 2021 is between 12,465 tonnes and 17,585 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 (LO) came into force for Nephrops fisheries in the 80-99 mm trawl fisheries in 2016, and in 2019 it was extended to all species subject to catch limits. This means that individuals that are below the Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS), as well as adults that are unwanted (e.g. over-quota), must be landed rather than discarded at sea. For Nephrops in the North Sea, MCRS is 25 mm carapace length (32mm in the Skagerrak). There are some exemptions, meaning a certain amount of Nephrops can still be discarded at sea (up to 6% de minimis in some fisheries; full exemptions where there is high survivability e.g. in pots or larger-meshed nets). The LO should increase both the number of small (below-MCRS) Nephrops and unwanted adults being landed, but throughout EU waters compliance with this regulation is generally poor and there is often no change in landings. In 2016 Denmark and Sweden lowered their national MCRS from 40 to 32mm, 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 were 26.3% 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 three. In creel fisheries, Nephrops that are below the MCRS can be discarded because they are more likely to survive discarding than when they are caught in 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. Swedish fleets must use a species-selective grid, with a certain mesh size for part of the net. Danish fleets must use either the grid or a SELTRA trawl which has a larger-meshed net and an escape panel. Swedish discard sampling is carried out by on-board observers. Danish and Norwegian sampling are low, and in general, sampling coverage has not always been enough to cover seasonal changes in the fishery.

Both the EU and UK have fishery management measures in place, which can include catch limits, targets for population sizes and fishing mortality, and controls on what fishing gear can be used and where. In the EU, compliance with regulations has been variable, and there are ongoing challenges with implementing some of them. There was a target for fishing to be at Maximum Sustainable Yield by 2020, but this was not achieved. The Landing Obligation (LO), an EU law that the UK has kept after Brexit, requires all fish and shellfish to be landed, even if they are unwanted (over-quota or below minimum size). It aims to promote more selective fishing methods, reduce bycatch, and improve recording of everything that is caught, not just what is wanted. Compliance with the LO is generally poor and actual levels of discards are difficult to quantify using the current fisheries observer programme.

In the UK, it is too early to tell how effective management is, as the Fisheries Act only came into force in January 2021. The Act requires the development of Fisheries Management Plans (FMPs) (replacing EU Multi-Annual Plans) but there are no details yet on how and when these will be developed. FMPs have the potential to be very important tools for managing UK fisheries, although data limitations may delay them for some stocks. MCS is keen to see FMPs for all commercially exploited stocks, especially where stocks are depleted, that include:
Targets for fishing pressure and biomass, and additional management when those targets are not being met
Timeframes for stock recovery
Technologies such as Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) to support data collection and improve transparency and accountability
Consideration of wider environmental impacts of the fishery

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0 info

Creeling or potting is a low impact method of fishing, with low levels of bycatch and low impact on the seabed.

Trawling accounts for around 95% of Nephrops catches in this area, and creeling for 5%. Creeling is mainly carried out by Sweden, and mainly in the Skagerrak.

Bycatch in creel fisheries is generally low, and survival rates are far higher than from trawling. Bycatch species can include whelks, crabs and lobster. The discarded catch is small (around 6% of total catch). Some cod is bycaught in Swedish creel fisheries, but bycatch levels are about a tenth of that in Nephrops trawls and the survival rate is between 75% and 100% (compared to 0% in trawl fisheries).

Creeling in the Swedish fishery generally happens near the coast on mud or sandy mud. The impact of creels on the seabed is likely to be low, although they can sometimes impact sessile species. The impact on sea pens is considered minimal.

Creel fisheries are exempt from the discard bans, as Nephrops are likely to survive after being discarded from these fisheries. Creeling tends to catch larger Nephrops than trawling, and below-minimum-size individuals are likely to survive if caught and released. This can result in lower fishing pressure than trawling. However, creeling may catch more females than males, and in particular could catch berried (egg-bearing) females, which could have an impact on reproduction. More research is needed to fully understand the level of risk. At the current low harvest rates, it is not expected to be a significant concern.


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 [Accessed on 19.11.2020].

CruCSChange, 2015. The crustacean chemosensory system: Consequences of climate and environmental change. EU Grant agreement ID: 331296. Available at https://cordis.europa.eu/article/id/182940-impact-of-environmental-change-on-norway-lobster [Accessed on 19.11.2020].

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/?uri=CELEX:32018R0973 [Accessed on 17.11.2020].

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].

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.

ICES. 2020. Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in Division 3.a, functional units 3 and 4 (Skagerrak and Kattegat). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2020. ICES Advice 2020, nep.fu.3-4. Available at https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.5839 [Accessed on 17.11.2020].

ICES. 2020. Working Group on the Assessment of Demersal Stocks in the North Sea and Skagerrak (WGNSSK). ICES Scientific Reports, 2:61. 1140 pp. Available at http://doi.org/10.17895/ices.pub.6092 [Accessed on 17.11.2020].

Murray and Cowie, 2011. Plastic contamination in the decapod crustacean Nephrops norvegicus (Linnaeus, 1758). Marine Pollution Bulletin, 62: 6, pp.1207-1217. Available at doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.03.032 [Accessed on 19.11.2020].

Palomares, M.L.D. and Pauly, D. (Editors), 2019. SeaLifeBase. Nephrops norvegicus: Norway lobster. Available at https://www.sealifebase.ca/summary/Nephrops-norvegicus.html [Accessed on 17.11.2020].

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]

Wood, H., Eriksson, S., Nordborg, M., and Styf, H., 2015. The effect of environmental stressors on the early development of the Norway lobster Nephrops norvegicus (L.). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 473. pp. 35-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jembe.2015.08.009.