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 (Irish Sea East)
Stock detail — 7a, Functional Unit 14
Certification — FIP Stage 2. More info available here
Picture of Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

Updated: November 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 Irish Sea East, the fishing pressure on this stock is very low, and the stock is currently in a good state, although it has been declining over the past 3 years. Management here is not applied at the functional unit level, but catches have been below the scientific advice in recent years. In this area Nephrops are generally caught in by trawls using a smaller mesh size (80-99mm), and therefore there is a higher risk of bycatch than in other demersal trawl fisheries which use larger mesh sizes, including whiting and cod. Whiting in the Irish Sea is in a very poor state: current stock size is less than 7% of sustainable levels, and it is recommended that catches of this stock be reduced too zero. Almost all catches are by the Irish Sea Nephrops fisheries. Under these circumstances, it is likely that the Nephrops fisheries in the Irish Sea are contributing to the poor status of whiting, and preventing it from recovering.

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 (e.g. SELTRA, incline mesh panel), 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

The fishing pressure on this stock is very low, and the stock is currently in a good state, although it has been declining over the past 3 years.

The harvest rate has been well below FMSY (11%) for more than a decade and has generally declined since 2014. In 2018 it was 2.6%. The stock abundance has been fluctuating above MSY Btrigger (350 million individuals) since 2010. In 2019 it was 399 million individuals - above MSY BTrigger but the lowest for a decade.

ICES advises that when the EU multiannual plan (MAP) for Western waters and adjacent waters is applied, catches in 2020 that correspond to the F ranges in the MAP are between 644 tonnes and 779 tonnes. The entire range is considered precautionary when applying the ICES advice rule and the upper limit is in line with FMSY. This is a 15% decrease in advice from the previous year owing to the declining in stock abundance.

There are some uncertainties with this stock assessment, and when it is next benchmarked it has been recommended that MSY BTrigger should be reviewed, as it may be too high. Better understanding of the growth and population structure in this area is needed.


Criterion score: 0.5 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. The stock is not subject to overfishing, nor is it in an overfished state. Catches have been below the advice in recent years.

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. This advice is not being followed.

This stock is covered by the EU Western Waters Multi Annual management Plan (MAP), covering eighteen FUs, including 11-17 and 19-22. 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. However, a single TAC covers the whole of ICES Subarea 7 (FUs 14-17 and 19-22). Catches in Subarea 7 overall have been less than the TAC in recent years, as there has been a general decline in trawling fishing effort for Norway lobster. Catches in FU 14 have been somewhat below the advised limits in the last 5 years, averaging just 40% of the advice. In 2018, 263t of Nephrops were landed - just 21% of the advised limit of 1,281t.

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. MCRS in the FU 14 and 15 is 20mm carapace length - lower than the other Celtic Sea FUs (25mm) and below the size of maturity of female Nephrops (23mm). As of January 2019, the discard ban applies to all species subject to catch limits. A de minimis exemption applies to Nephrops vessels in Subarea 7, allowing them to discard Nephrops as long as they made up no more than 7% of the catch in 2016 and 2017; 6% in 2018 and 5% in 2019. Unwanted catch has averaged around 10% (by weight) of the total in the last 5 years. Observations from the 2016-2018 fishery indicate that discarding above the minimum conservation reference size (MCRS) continues. The assumed survival rate of discards of 10% for FU14 and FU15 is lower than that for other stocks because fishing practices are similar in these two FUs and both are largely spring/summer fisheries where animals discarded are exposed to warmer temperatures. Vessels using mesh size over 100mm or highly selective gear have a survivability exemption from the Landings Obligation.

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 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. 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.

There is a Fishery Improvement Project in place for this functional unit (more information here). It is currently in the early stages (Stage 2) and aims to have the fishery in a position to be certified sustainable by April 2024.

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).

Capture Information

Criterion score: 1 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 in this fishery are caught almost entirely by the Nephrops-directed trawl fleets (mesh size 70-99 mm). The majority are caught by the UK (average 92% in the past 5 years) and the remainder by the Republic of Ireland (8%). Most of the fishery takes place between the West coast of England and Isle of Man, and there is also fishing activity in a small inshore ground known as Wigtown Bay.

Demersal otter trawls use smaller mesh-sized nets (80-99mm) to catch Nephrops than other whitefish trawlers (100mm +) and therefore, it can be an unselective fishing gear, catching and discarding a relatively high amount of undersized Nephrops, various whitefish species and flatfish. Nephrops is the main demersal species landed within the Irish Sea mixed fisheries, and other species in the Nephrops fishery constitute a low proportion of the overall landings (less than 10%). However, there is evidence of significant discarding in these fisheries, including cod and whiting. Whiting in the Irish Sea is in a very poor state: current stock size is less than 7% of sustainable levels. Fishing pressure is above sustainable levels. Advice is for zero catch, but this species continues to be caught as bycatch - almost entirely by Nephrops fisheries. Highly selective gears to reduce finfish catch and discards in the Nephrops fishery have been mandatory since 2013, and this does appear to have reduced whiting catches, but discard levels have remained high relative to the landings. In 2018, 98% of whiting discards and 94% of whiting catch originated form Nephrops-directed bottom trawl fisheries. On average, from 2016-2018: 96% of total whiting catch was discarded and 83% of whiting bycatch was by the Nephrops fishery. Most of the catches were below the EU minimum conservation reference size (MCRS). It is forecast that whiting bycatch by Nephrops fisheries in the Irish Sea in 2020 will be over 830 tonnes; ICES advice is for 0 catch. Under these circumstances, it is likely that the Nephrops fisheries in the Irish Sea are contributing to the poor status of whiting, and preventing it from recovering.

The MCRS in FU 14 and 15 is 20mm carapace length - lower than the other Celtic Sea FUs (25mm) and below the size of maturity of female Nephrops (23mm). EU Technical Measures regulations require a square mesh panel of 120mm or a sorting grid to reduce bycatch, and bycatches of cod, haddock and saithe should not exceed 20% of the total weight. Parts of the east cost of Ireland and Northern Ireland are closed from 14 February - 30 April each year to protect spawning cod, but trawling is allowed if highly selective gear is being used.

There has been a trend for Irish, since 2012, and more recently Northern Irish vessels to switch to multi (quad) rig trawls. Provisional data suggest a 30% increase in Nephrops catch rates and a reduction in fish bycatch of 30% due to the lower headline height. Around 55% of Irish vessels use separator trawls and 45% have opted to use Swedish grids to reduce bycatch. 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. They are conducting gear trials through a Fishery Improvement Project, which aims to improve Nephrops fisheries in the Irish Sea and West of Scotland. There have also been decommissioning schemes to reduce fishing effort.

The southernmost part of this fishery overlaps with West of Walney Marine Conservation Zone (MCZ), which was designated to protect sea pens and mud and sand habitats. Sea pens and burrowing megafauna communities are an OSPAR threatened and/or declining habitat in the north east Atlantic, especially within the Irish Sea where this MCZ is located. They have a high sensitivity to penetration or abrasion of the seabed, e.g. from activities such as trawling. However, the highest density of Nephrops, and therefore the majority of fishing effort, is in the north of the fishing ground, outside of this MCZ. Given the important role that Marine Protected Areas, including MCZs, 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).


EU, 2018. Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/2034 of 18 October 2018 establishing a discard plan for certain demersal fisheries in North-Western waters for the period 2019-2021. Available at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.L_.2018.327.01.0008.01.ENG [Accessed on 13.11.2019].

EU, 2019. Regulation (EU) 2019/1241 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on the conservation of fisheries resources and the protection of marine ecosystems through technical measures. Available at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32019R1241#ntr1-L_2019198EN.01015901-E0001 [Accessed on 13.11.2019].

Guitton J., Ulrich, C., Vermard Y., Afonso P., Andonegi E., Argyrou I., Calderwood J., Fauconnet L., Quetglas A., Morato T., Prellezo R., Robert M., Savina-Rolland M., Triantaphyllidis G., Vaz S., 2017. DiscardLess Atlas: Cod-Celtic sea. Available at http://www.discardless.eu/atlas [Accessed on 15.11.2019].

Guitton J., Ulrich, C., Vermard Y., Afonso P., Andonegi E., Argyrou I., Calderwood J., Fauconnet L., Quetglas A., Morato T., Prellezo R., Robert M., Savina-Rolland M., Triantaphyllidis G., Vaz S., 2017. DiscardLess Atlas: Whiting-Celtic Sea and West of Scotland. Available at http://www.discardless.eu/atlas [Accessed on 15.11.2019].

ICES. 2019. EU request to provide likely catches in 2020 of specific bycatch / non-targeted stocks that have zero catch advice (cod in divisions 7.e-k and 6.a and in Subdivision 21, whiting in divisions 6.a and 7.a, and plaice in divisions 7.h and 7.j-k). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, sr.2019.23, https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.5646. Available at http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2019/Special_Requests/eu.2019.23.pdf [Accessed on 15.11.2019].

ICES. 2019. Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in Division 7.a, Functional Unit 14 (Irish Sea, East). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, nep.fu.14, https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.4791. Available at http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2019/2019/nep.fu.14.pdf [Accessed on 18.11.2019].

ICES. 2019. Working Group for the Celtic Seas Ecoregion (WGCSE). ICES Scientific Reports. 1:29. 1587 pp. http://doi.org/10.17895/ices.pub.4982. Available at http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Expert%20Group%20Report/Fisheries%20Resources%20Steering%20Group/2019/WGCSE/01_WGCSE_2019.pdf [Accessed on 15.11.2019].

Natural England, 2019. Natural England and JNCC Conservation Advice for Marine Protected Areas: West of Walney MCZ. Available at https://designatedsites.naturalengland.org.uk/Marine/MarineSiteDetail.aspx?SiteCode=UKMCZ0045&SiteName=walney&countyCode=&responsiblePerson=&SeaArea=&IFCAArea&HasCA=1&NumMarineSeasonality=0&SiteNameDisplay=West%20of%20Walney%20MCZ [Accessed on 18.11.2019].

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