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 — Celtic Sea and West of Scotland
Stock detail — Irish Sea East (Management Area J, FU 14)
Picture of Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

The stock is not overfished or undergoing overfishing. Nephrops (or scampi) in this area have a healthy biomass and catch levels are at healthy levels.

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. In this area, there are high bycatches of cod, whiting, and some haddock. This is a concern because whiting is at very unhealthy levels (where their biomass is under Blim). Bycatch has reduced though 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.


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

Celtic Sea and West of Scotland

Stock information

The stock is not overfished or undergoing overfishing.

In the Eastern Irish Sea (FU 14) fishing mortality is below the target level. The stock size has been well above (1.4 times MSY Btrigger) MSY Btrigger since 2010.


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: effort management (which is limited for otter trawlers), mesh size and catch composition (as per the EU long-term cod management plan. These measures are subject to change under the new Multi-Annual Plan due in mid-2018. The Celtic Sea and West of Scotland mandate the EU MLS for Nephrops of 25mm carapace length. 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. Scientists advice that TACs should be allocated at a functional unit level, so that they are appropriate for the Nephrops in each functional unit.

The quota used in this area in 2017 was well below that recommended by scientific advice: ICES advised that catches in 2017 should be no more than 995 tonnes, in that year total estimated total catches were 252 tonnes. A 2016 study showed that discards represent about 10-15% of the weight of the total catch. 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.

The cod long-term plan (EC 1342/2008) has exemptions on effort restrictions which makes it difficult to monitor effort in the area impacted.

The countries surrounding the fishery are required to enforce fisheries laws. Enforcement duties include at-sea, areal, dockside, processing plant and sales inspections. Compliance rates are unknown but reporting has likely improved since buyers and sellers regulations, electronic logbooks and electronic vessel monitoring (VMS) (for vessels over 12 metres in length), was implemented.

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 well 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).

Almost all of the vessels in the area use small mesh nets to target Nephrops. Because of this, the fishery has been unselective. Mitigation measures such as real time closures and square mesh panels were implemented to reduce the risk on the cod in this area. To reduce the risk of the Nephrops fishery on bycatch, sorting grids or 120 mm square mesh panels are compulsory (EU 227/2013). Separator trawls were introduced in the Irish fishery more than 10 years ago, in an attempt to reduce cod bycatch. By 2002, 80% of vessels were using separator trawls. Currently, cod discards in this area have been almost exclusively occurred in the Nephrops fishery. Their populations have substantially increased in recent years and are approaching the MSYBtrigger reference point. However, whiting populations are not at safe levels: the majority (78%) of whiting discards occur in the Nephrops fishery and are below the minimum landings size. Despite several technical measures being introduced into the Nephrops fishery to reduce finfish bycatch and discards, total discards estimates remain high. Whiting are expected to become a major choke species in this area (7a). To further increase selectivity in the fishery, the Irish fishery have focused on increasing the codend mesh size, square mesh and other types of escape panels as well as the use of rigid sorting grids. The Irish fishery is currently conducting gear trials through a Fishery Improvement Project.

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.


ICES. 2017. Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in Division 7.a, Functional Unit 14 (Irish Sea, East). Published 31 October 2017. DOI: 10.17895/ices.pub.3395. Available at: http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/nep.fu.14.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.

ICES. 2018. Cod (Gadus morhua) in Division 7.a (Irish Sea). Published (Version 2) 2 July 2018. https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.pub.4489. Available at: http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/cod.27.7a.pdf

ICES. 2017. Whiting (Merlangius merlangus) in Division 7.a (Irish Sea). Published 30 June 2017. DOI: 10.17895/ices.pub.3268. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/whg.27.7a.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

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

Williams, C., and Carpenter, G. 2016. NEF working paper: The Scottish Nephrops fishery: Applying social, economic, and environmental criteria.

Russell, J., Mardle, S. 2017. Analysis of nephrops industry in Scotland. Edinburgh, UK.

DAFM. 2018. Scheme to promote use of more Selective Fishing Gear in the Irish Nephrops Fishery. Available at: https://www.agriculture.gov.ie/media/migration/seafood/sea-fisheriespolicymanagementdivision/policyquotamanagement/nephropsschemefortheuseofselectivefishinggears/ManArrangementsNephropsSch040518.pdf

Oliver, M., McHugh, M., Browne, D., Murphy, S., Cosgrove, R., 2017. Nephrops survivability in the Irish demersal trawl fishery. Galway, Ireland. Available at: http://www.bim.ie/media/bim/content/publications/fisheries/6882-BIM-nephrops-survival-report-final.pdf