Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Celtic Sea and West of Scotland (Labadie, Jones and Cockburn)
Stock detail — 7g, 7h, Functional Unit 20, Functional Unit 21
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 Labadie, Jones and Cockburn, the stock is not being subjected to overfishing, but there is concern for the biomass level, which is at its lowest observed level. 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 2019 is below BLim, but expected to recover somewhat in 2020. Celtic Sea cod, however, is at dangerously low levels and scientific advice is for 0 catch on this stock. The largest Celtic cod and whiting catches take place in ICES area 7g (FUs 19-22), mostly from demersal whitefish trawls, but Nephrops trawls in The Smalls account for a significant proportion of cod and whiting catches in this area, while the other two Nephrops FUs (Labadie, Jones and Cockburn, and Irish SW and SE coast) are also responsible for some cod catches in 7g.
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.
Criterion score: 0.5 info
Celtic Sea and West of Scotland (Labadie, Jones and Cockburn)
Although this stock is not being subjected to overfishing, there is concern for the biomass level, which is at its lowest observed level. Nephrops norvegicus has a low vulnerability to fishing pressure.
The harvest rate is below FMSY (6%) for the time-series, which goes back to 2013. In 2018 it was 3%. There are no reference points for stock abundance, but it has decreased from a high of 4,428 million individuals in 2017, to its lowest observed level in 2019 (617 million individuals). There was a 77% decrease from 2018-2019; the reason for this dramatic decline is not known.
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 1,131 tonnes and 1,150 tonnes. The entire range is considered precautionary when applying the ICES advice rule, and the upper limit is in line with FMSY. This advice is around an 80% decrease on the previous year, owing to the large decrease in stock abundance.
While there is an underwater TV survey to assess stock levels, there is not yet enough data to provide an MSY BTrigger.
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 currently in an overfished state, but fishing pressure is within sustainable limits. 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. From 2014-2016, catches in FU 20-21 were in line with the advice for this FU, in 2017 they dropped to 61% of the advice and in 2018 it was just 25%.
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 - 25mm carapace length) individuals, as well as adults that are unwanted (e.g. over-quota) must be landed rather than discarded at sea. As of January 2019, the discard ban applies to all species subject to catch limits. Observations from the 2016-2018 fishery indicate that discarding above the minimum conservation reference size (MCRS) continues and has not changed markedly. Unwanted catch in this FU averages 20% of the total (by weight). Irish discard survival experiments indicate that the trawl discard survival may be up to 64%. 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.
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).
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. In 2018 all Nephrops were landed by otter trawl, both 70-99mm and >100mm. Most landings were from the Republic of Ireland (66%) with some from the UK (23%) and France (11%).
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. There has been a trend for Irish vessels (>18 m) 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. A 2011 report indicates that French Nephrops fisheries in this area are fairly mixed, also catching whiting, cod, megrim, anglerfish and other demersal species. The Irish fleet specialises more on Nephrops, which make up 50-75% of the landings. Bycatch and discarding can vary as nearly all of the French fleet, and some of the Irish fleet have adopted over 100mm mesh in the codend. Whiting in 2019 is below BLim, but expected to recover somewhat in 2020. Celtic Sea cod, however, is at dangerously low levels and scientific advice is for 0 catch on this stock. Recent ICES reports (2019) indicate that the largest Celtic cod and whiting catches take place in ICES area 7g (FUs 19-22), mostly from demersal whitefish trawls. More detailed data from 2015 indicates that Nephrops trawls in The Smalls account for a significant proportion of cod and whiting catches in this area, while the other two Nephrops FUs (Labadie, Jones and Cockburn, and Irish SW and SE coast) are also responsible for some cod catches in 7g.
The minimum conservation reference size mandated by the EU is 25mm, but France sets a Minimum Landing Size of 35mm. 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 7f and g (30E4, 31E4, 32E3) are closed to fishing in February and March each year to limit cod catches during spawning season.
Endangered, threatened and protected species caught in the catch can include some skates, rays and sharks. Skates and rays are generally 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. 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 aren’t implemented over whole functional unit or regional levels.
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, but the FIP itself does not apply to this Functional Unit. Until 2018, a cod recovery plan in Irish waters placed additional restrictions on gear, with specific selectivity requirements, but the plan has now come to an end.
Nephrops are mainly found in soft mud habitats, which are also associated other burrowing animals like other crustaceans, bivalves (including the long-lived and slow-growing ocean quahog), and polychaete worms. They are also associated with emergent epifauna such as soft corals and sea pens, which are vulnerable to interactions with bottom-towed fishing gear. Sea-pens and burrowing megafauna communities are included in the OSPAR list of threatened and/or declining species and habitats. Disturbance from trawl gear on the seabed, especially over long periods of time, is likely to affect the structure, species composition, and biodiversity of the burrowed mud community. Recent surveys have observed just one species of sea-pen (Virgilaria mirabilis) in this FU, and trawl marks were observed at 32% of the stations surveyed.
There are Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in this Functional Unit, some of which are designated to protect seabed features from damaging activities. This Nephrops fishery overlaps with parts of these MPAs, but the proportion of the catch coming from these areas is expected to be relatively low in relation to the unit of assessment (i.e. less than 20% of the catch), and so these impacts have not been assessed within the scale of this rating. Given the important role that MPAs 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).
Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.Abalone
Clam, Manila (Farmed)
Crab, brown or edible
Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi
Mussel, Chilean (Farmed)
Mussel, mussels (Farmed)
Oyster, Native, oysters (Caught at sea)
Oyster, Native, oysters (Farmed)
Oyster, Pacific, oysters (Caught at sea)
Oyster, Pacific, oysters (Farmed)
Prawn, King (whiteleg), prawns
Prawn, Northern prawns, Northern shrimp
Prawn, Tiger prawns (Farmed)
Scallop, King, scallops
Squid, Japanese flying
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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].
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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].
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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.
NWWAC. 2017. De minimis proposal for undersized whiting in the TR2 Nephrops trawl fishery (Irish Sea).
Oliver, M., McHugh, M., Browne, D., Murphy, S. Cosgrove, R. 2017. Nephrops survivability in the Irish demersal trawl. Irish Sea Fisheries Board (BIM), Fisheries Conservation Report, September 2017. 12 pp.
Palomares, M.L.D. and Pauly, D. (Editors), 2019. SeaLifeBase. Nephrops norvegicus: Norway lobster. Available at https://www.sealifebase.ca/summary/Nephrops-norvegicus.html [Accessed on 13.11.2019].
White, J., Aristegui, M., Blaszkowski, M., Fee, D., O'Connor, S., Power, J., Notaro, D., O' Brien, and Doyle, J., 2019. The Labadie, Jones and Cockburn Banks Nephrops Grounds (FU20-21) 2019 UWTV Survey Report and catch scenarios for 2020. Marine Institute UWTV Survey report. Available at https://oar.marine.ie/bitstream/handle/10793/1430/Survey%20Report%20FU2021%20UWTV%202019.pdf [Accessed on 15.11.2019].
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.
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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