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 (Firth of Forth)
Stock detail

4b (Management Area I: FU 8)


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

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

Nephrops populations are at healthy levels but fishing mortality is slightly too high and needs to be reduced.

The Nephrops fishery in the Firth of Forth is dominated by Scottish vessels, with low landings reported by other UK nations. The fishery in Scottish waters has developed since the early 1960s, and Nephrops is currently the second most valuable species landed in Scotland after mackerel. There are fisheries in a number of areas around Scotland, the largest being the Fladen Ground. Most are caught by trawlers, but in inshore west coast areas, creeling is also important. Scotland takes about one third of the total world Nephrops landings and is allocated the majority of the North Sea and Scottish West Coast Total Allowable Catch (TAC) within the EU.

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. Trawling for nephrops results is associated with large quantities of bycatch, including species such as cod and juvenile fish. Despite the landings obligation being implemented, ICES state that “discarding above the minimum conservation reference size (MCRS) continues and has not changed markedly”.

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.

There are Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to protect seabed features within the area of this assessment and some components of this fishery may be fishing in these areas. If appropriate management measures are not in place to protect these features, or, an appropriate impact or risk assessment of the activity has not been undertaken to indicate the commercial fishing activity does not damage the integrity of the site, MCS considers these fishing activities as default red rated.

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: 0.25 info

Stock Area

North Sea (Firth of Forth)

Stock information

Summary
The stock is not overfished but there are some concerns over the scale of fishing mortality of the stock.

Justification
The stock size in this area is well above (above 1.4 times MSY Btrigger) MSY Btrigger. Fishing mortality is slightly above Fmsy.

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 are 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 is slightly above that recommended in scientific advice: ICES advised that catches in 2017 should be no more than 2548 tonnes, in that year total catches 2773 tonnes. Therefore, catch levels exceed that recommended in scientific advice. ICES have identified potential misreporting of undersized Nephrops for this stock. The ICES Nephrop stock assessments have stated that discards are likely the same despite a landings obligation being implemented and therefore, illegal fishing may be occurring.

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. Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) are mandatory for vessels over 12m length, along with an electronic reporting system and a vessel detection system. Scotland’s surveillance and enforcement agencies include the Navy, Marine Scotland and the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency who use aerial, at-sea and dock patrols to monitor fishing activities, gear, catches, EU logbook and sales notes. There is observer coverage in the fishery.

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).

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. The minimum mesh size in Nephrops trawls is 80mm and therefore, is non-selective, and retains undersized species. Fish that are below minimum size can be sold, but not for human consumption.

Bycatch
The cod biomass in the North Sea has been improving. Haddock populations have been increasing but fishing mortality is slightly too high. The stock status of saithe, plaice and sole is generally healthy.

Non-quota species, such as gurnards, lobsters or pipefish can be discarded. The average nephrop discard rate is about 12.4% in 2018.

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. Although the minimum size of the mesh in the nets may be small, some vessels have taken part in fishing gear trials where they use specially-designed nets to reduce their impact on bycatch and the seabed where they fish. Vessels which use these more selective nets can be rewarded by being given more quota. In Scotland, these trials include the Nephrops grid trials, for example, the Fathlie cod avoidance panel is classified as a highly selective gear. In the West Coast of Scotland (ICES 6a), vessels were required to use a 120 mm square mesh panel as part of the Scottish Conservation Credits Scheme (when it was in operation) to protect the cod stocks. British vessels are banned from using multi-trawl gears in Scottish waters.

Habitat
Nephrops are found in muddy habitats, which are relatively sensitive to trawling impacts. 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 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. 2017. Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in Division 4.b, Functional Unit 8 (central North Sea, Firth of Forth). Published 14 November 2017. DOI:10.17895/ices.pub.3523. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/nep.fu.8.pdf

Enever R., T.L. Catchpole T.L., Ellis. J.R., Grant A. 2009. The survival of skates (Rajidae) caught by demersal trawlers fishing in UK waters. Fisheries Research 97, pp: 72-76

Mandelman J.W., Cicia, A.M., Ingram Jr, G.W. Driggers III, W.B., Coutreb, K.M. and Sulikowskib, J.A. Short-term post-release mortality of skates (family Rajidae) discarded in a western North Atlantic commercial otter trawl fishery. Fisheries Research 83 (2007) 238-245.

Marine Scotland. 2018. IMPLEMENTATION OF THE DEMERSAL LANDING OBLIGATION IN 2018 MARINE SCOTLAND GUIDANCE FOR SCOTTISH FISHING VESSELS. Available at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/marine/Sea-Fisheries/discards/demersal/DemersalLandingObligation-GuidancetoSkippers.

Russell, J. and Mardle, S. 2017. Analysis of Nephrops industry in Scotland. Final Report. Available at: http://www.sff.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/AS-nephrops-FINAL-report-171017-ISSUED.pdf

Kingma, I. and Walker, P. Rays of Hope - Discard survival in North Sea Skates and Rays. ICES CM 2014/O:09. Available at: http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/CM%20Doccuments/CM-2014/Theme%20Session%20O%20contributions/O0914.pdf