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 — West Scotland (North Minch)
Stock detail — 6a (Management Area C, FU 11)
Picture of Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

The stock is not overfished but there is some concern for growing levels 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. Trawling for nephrops results is associated with large quantities of bycatch. Almost 70% of whiting that is discarded in this area, is discarded from the Nephrops fishery and the Nephrops fleet is still responsible for over 30% of cod discards. This is a concern because whiting and cod populations are at very unhealthy levels (where their biomass is under Blim). Bycatch has reduced due to Real Time Closures, the introduction of square mesh panels and increased mesh sizes, however, discards continue and whiting in this area are predicted to become a major choke species.

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 info

Stock Area

West Scotland (North Minch)

Stock information

The nephrop population in this area is neither overfished or undergoing overfishing. Biomass is well above (above 1.4 times MSY Btrigger) MSYBtrigger. Fishing mortality has been below FMSY since 2013.

Management

Criterion score: 0.5 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: a Cod Recovery Zone, 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 landings and discards recorded in 2017 was below that recommended by scientific advice: ICES advised that catches in 2017 should be no more than 3814 tonnes, in that year, landings and discards totalled 2512 tonnes.

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, length-frequency data from at-sea and port monitoring, are used to conduct an annual stock assessment. The Scottish Industry Science observer sampling scheme was extended in 2017 to collect more data for FU 11 and ICES considers that current biological sampling is sufficient. 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.

Surveillance occurs through monitoring of logbooks and sales notes. All vessels over 10m must keep EU logbooks, but vessels under 10m are not required to do so. 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. However, catches are below that recommended in scientific advice.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.75 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 the West of Scotland, a recent report by Rihan (2018), show that discards of these bycatch species are high: the TR2 fleet (70-100mm mesh) have high discard rates of cod (96%), haddock (92%), plaice (96%) and whiting (99%). The drivers to discard these species are mainly that the fish are undersized and lack of quota in the case of cod.

In particular, in this area, there are high amounts of whiting catches. This is a concern because whiting populations are below healthy levels (where their biomass is under Blim). Their populations are now increasing as their fishing mortality has decreased over time. Their fishing mortality has decreased particularly because the Nephrops fishery implemented emergency measures in 2010 to reduce bycatch and discards. To reduce the risk of the Nephrops fishery on bycatch, sorting grids or 120 mm square mesh panels are compulsory (EU 227/2013). Mesh sizes were increased from 100 mm to 120 mm and large square mesh panels were introduced to Nephrops nets. Despite the widespread use of larger meshes and selectivity devices, the amount of whiting discarded by boats trawling for Nephrops remains “high”. Almost 70% of whiting that is discarded in this area, is discarded from the Nephrops fishery. Whiting in this area are predicted to become a major choke species.

Cod bycatch has reduced in these fisheries, because of measures such as Real Time Closures and square mesh panels, however the Nephrops fleet is still responsible for over 30% of cod discards in this area. Cod populations are not at healthy levels in this area (biomass is well below Blim). However, Alexander et al. (2015) stated that “the removal of landings by west coast of Scotland nephrops trawlers caused little change in adult or juvenile cod biomass”. Further mitigation measures are expected to improve bycatch and discard impacts in the fishery through the GITAG (Gear Innovation and Technology Advisory Group). 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.

A report by the University of Glasgow showed that elasmobranchs form around 10% of the Nephrops catch, these can include Endangered Threatened and Protected species such as spurdog. There are no data about their discards or survival rates.

References

ICES. 2018. Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in Division 6.a, Functional Unit 11 (West of Scotland, North Minch). Published 31 October 2018. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/nep.fu.11.pdf

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

ICES. 2018. Whiting (Merlangius merlangus) in Division 6.a (West of Scotland). Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/whg.27.6a.pdf

REGULATION (EU) No 227/2013 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 13 March 2013. Available at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32013R0227&from=EN

ICES. 2017. Cod (Gadus morhua) in Division 6.a (West of Scotland). Published 30 June 2017. DOI: 10.17895/ices.pub.3100. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/cod.27.6a.pdf

Rihan, D. 2018. Research for PECH Committee - landing obligation and choke species in multi-species and mixed fisheries - the North Western Waters. European Parliament, Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies, Brussels.

Milligan, R.J., Neil, D.M., and Albalat, A. (2013) Scottish Nephrops Survey Phase III: Evaluation of Measures for Reducing Bycatch and Discards in a Nephrops Fishery. Project Report. University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.

Alexander, K.A. Heymans, J.J., Magill, S., Tomczak, M.T., Holmes, S.J., Wilding, T.A. 2015. Investigating the recent decline in gadoid stocks in the west of Scotland shelf ecosystem using a foodweb model, ICES Journal of Marine Science, 72 (2) pp 436-449. Available at:https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsu149.