Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — North Sea (Botney Cut to Silver Pit)
Stock detail — 4b, 4c, Functional Unit 5
Certification — FIP Stage 2. More info available here
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 Botney Cut to Silver Pit, the stock status is unknown but seems to be stable. However, there is concern that fishing pressure might be too high. Management here is not applied at the functional unit level, and catches have been above scientific advice. Discarding in this fishery is also high. In this fishery, most (77%) of the fleet use smaller-meshes of 70-99mm mesh, which can result in higher levels of bycatch.
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.
Criterion score: 0.5 info
The state of this stock is unknown and reference points for biomass and fishing mortality have not been defined. Average fishing pressure over the last 10 years is estimated to be within sustainable limits, but it has increased beyond this level in the last 2 years. The stock density is thought to be higher than neighbouring units and at a stable level. This species has low vulnerability to fishing pressure.
This stock is assessed biennially, with the next advice due in 2020. ICES considers the status of the stock to be uncertain, although there are no consistent signals that it is suffering from over-exploitation. In 2018 ICES advised that when the precautionary approach is applied, catches in each of the years 2019 and 2020 should be no more than 1,637 tonnes - a 20% increase on the 2017/2018 advice. In the absence of a full analytical assessment, ICES bases its advice for Norway lobster on average landings, unless this is considered to be not precautionary. Maximum sustainable yield (MSY) harvest rates estimated for other FUs vary between 7.5% and 16%. ICES uses the lower boundary as an upper limit for advice for data limited Norway lobster stocks such as this one, making the FMSY proxy 7.5%. The assumed density for this stock is 0.7. Based on these parameters, average landings from 2008-2017 were within sustainable limits (harvest rate of 6.3%), but focussing on 2016 and 2017 shows landings well above previous years. Average landings specifically from 2015-2017 are above FMSY (harvest rate of 9.5%).
Scientific information for this stock has improved, but catch sampling and discard estimates are available for the last three years for the Dutch fleet only and there has been no underwater TV (UWTV) survey since 2012 to provide up-to-date information on the stock density. Landings per unit of effort (LPUE) from English directed fisheries show no trend in abundance over the period 2006-2017, which may suggest that density has remained stable. Exploratory stock surveys from 2010 and 2012 indicate relatively high density compared to neighbouring FUs.
A Dutch science-industry project to improve catch information (including discards) of Norway lobster by means of a fully catch-monitored reference fleet started in 2018. The objective is to develop time-series for future use in the stock assessments for Norway lobster in Functional units 5, 33, and in the North Sea outside of Functional Units.
Criterion score: 0.75 info
There are multiple management measures and a variety of enforcement employed in the fishery, though the quota is not applied at the functional unit level and therefore, the stock is at risk of overfishing. Recent catches for this data-limited stock have been high, indicating that management is not following scientific advice. Discards are also high. Therefore, the current management in this area does not provide adequate safeguards to limit local effort and avoid depletion of resources in functional units.
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.
For the stock in FU5 it is not possible to estimate abundance levels or FMSY ranges, therefore ICES continues to give advice based on the ICES precautionary approach. In 2017 and 2018, ICES advised catches of no more than 895t per year, but catch in 2017 was around 2,996t.
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.
For the stock in FU 5, discard data are only available from the Netherlands and only for 2015-2017. A substantial part of the Dutch discards are above minimum conservation reference size (MCRS), most likely due to a combination of quota restrictions and market prices. Unwanted catch in 2016 and 2017 was estimated to be 30% of the total.
The UK is the main producer of Norway lobster from the North Sea (74% of landings by weight in 2017). There are a series of technical measures for fishing gear for this fishery, set by the UK and the EU, relating to: mesh size, distance from the cod line, panel length (depending on engine power), and mesh construction. UK legislation also prohibits twin or multiple rig trawling with a diamond cod end mesh smaller than 100 mm in the North Sea south of 57.30 degrees N. 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.
Landings are monitored from EU logbooks and sales notes, or sales notes only for under-10m vessels that do not have to keep EU logbooks. Discards are estimated by observers on randomly selected vessels.
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).
Criterion score: 0.5 info
In this fishery, most (77%) of the fleet use smaller-meshes of 70-99mm mesh, which may result in high levels of bycatch. There is no creeling. The EU Cod recovery plan, which ended in 2017, included effort limits and real time closures and resulted in most of the Nephrops bycatch being generally in a good stock status.
There is a Landing Obligation on this stock, but compliance is patchy. See Management tab for details.
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.
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).
Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.Abalone
Clam, Manila (Farmed)
Crab, brown or edible
Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi
Mussel, Chilean (Farmed)
Mussel, mussels (Farmed)
Oyster, Native, oysters (Caught at sea)
Oyster, Native, oysters (Farmed)
Oyster, Pacific, oysters (Caught at sea)
Oyster, Pacific, oysters (Farmed)
Prawn, King (whiteleg), prawns
Prawn, Northern prawns, Northern shrimp
Prawn, Tiger prawns (Farmed)
Scallop, King, scallops
Scallop, Queen, scallops
Squid, Japanese flying
ReferencesEU, 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. 2018. Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in divisions 4.b and 4.c, Functional Unit 5 (central and southern North Sea, Botney Cut-Silver Pit. Published 29 June 2018. Available at: http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/nep.fu.5.pdf [Accessed on 04.07.2019].
Seafish, 2019. RASS Profile: Nephrops in Botney Cut - Silver Pit, Demersal otter trawl. Available at https://www.seafish.org/risk-assessment-for-sourcing-seafood/profile/nephrops-in-botney-gut-silver-pit-demersal-otter-trawl [Accessed on 02.07.2019]
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].