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 — North Sea (Botney Gut to Silver Pit)
Stock detail

4 b,c (Management Area H: FU 5)


Picture of Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

The stock status of Nephrops in this area is unknown. There appears to be concern for the biomass but no concern for the level of 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. In this fishery, most (77%) of the fleet use smaller-meshes of 70-99mm mesh, which may result in high levels of bycatch. This results in large quantities of bycatch, including species such as cod and juvenile fish. This area is associated with high discard rates (around 50% of nephrops are discarded), despite the introduction of the landing obligation in 2016.

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.

Biology

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: 0.5 info

Stock Area

North Sea (Botney Gut to Silver Pit)

Stock information

Summary
The stock status of Nephrops in this area is unknown. There appears to be concern for the biomass but no concern for the fishing mortality.

Justification
Exploratory stock surveys (2010 and 2012) indicate relatively high densities of Nephrops, compared to neighbouring functional units (FU)s. Landings Per Unit Effort (LPUE) values are generally stable. Density surveys are old and there is little information about biomass. The species has a high resilience.

Management

Criterion score: 0.75 info

There is currently no management plan in this area. There are multiple management measures and a variety of enforcement is employed in the fishery. The main management measures include: effort management (which is limited for otter trawlers), gear restrictions (such as mesh size limits), and catch composition restrictions. These measures are subject to change under the new Multi-Annual Plan due in mid-2018. As of 2018, beam trawls and bottom trawls of mesh size 80mm and 70mm mesh size respectively, must land all catches of Nephrops, cod, haddock, whiting, saithe, northern prawns, and potentially plaice and hake in the North Sea, the West of Scotland and the Irish Sea. Fish that are below minimum size can be sold, but not for human consumption.

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. The North West Advisory Council has advised TACs to be allocated at a functional unit level, so that TACs are appropriate for the Nephrops in each functional unit.

The quota used in this area in 2017 was above scientific advice: ICES advised that catches in 2017 should be no more than 895 tonnes, in that year total catches in 2017 were 2996 tonnes. There is a high discard ratio of undersized Nephrops in this area. Therefore, the current management in this area does not provide adequate safeguards to ensure that local effort is sufficiently limited to avoid depletion of resources in functional units.

Monitoring
The mean density of Nephrops is monitored through regular surveys conducted using underwater television (UWTV) per functional unit. These along with landings data, discards data and length-frequency data from at-sea and port monitoring, are used to conduct an annual stock assessment. The stock assessment is conducted at a functional unit level, providing the abundance and fishing mortality, relative to reference points. All landings of Nephrops that are over 12kg must be recorded in logbooks. Discards and catches of prohibited and undersized species must be recorded.

Enforcement
Surveillance occurs through monitoring of logbooks and sales notes. All vessels over 10m must keep EU logbooks, but vessels under 10m, do not have to keep logbooks. There is mandatory Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) for vessels over 12m length, an electronic reporting system and a vessel detection system.

In conclusion, 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.

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). In this fishery, most (77%) of the fleet use smaller-meshes of 70-99mm mesh, which may result in high levels of bycatch. Management measures to limit the impact on bycatch include those required by the EU Cod recovery plan, which includes effort limits and real time closures. This has resulted in most of the Nephrops bycatch being generally in a good stock status.

As of 2018, beam trawls and bottom trawls of mesh size 80mm and 70mm mesh size respectively, must land all catches of Nephrops, cod, haddock, whiting, saithe, northern prawns, and potentially place and hake (depending on the gear type and mesh size). These species must also be landed if they are below the Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS) (except from Nephrops in some cases, see Management section), can be sold, but not for human consumption. Other species which are caught below the MCRS must be discarded. Fish that are below minimum size can be sold, but not for human consumption. Non-quota species, such as gurnards, lobsters or pipefish can be discarded.

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 arenat implemented over whole functional unit or regional levels.

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.

References

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