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 (Moray Firth)
Stock detail

4a (Management Area F: FU 9)

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

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

The stock is not overfished. There were concerns that fishing mortality was too high, but it has recently reduced and the fishery is no longer undergoing overfishing.

The Moray Firth Nephrops fishery is essentially a Scottish fishery, with only occasional landings made by vessels from elsewhere in the UK. Vessels typically conduct day trips from the nearby ports along the Moray Firth coast.

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 introduction of the landings obligation, ICES states that ” discarding above the minimum conservation reference size (MCRS) continues and has not changed markedly”. Cod and whiting are expected to be important 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

North Sea (Moray Firth)

Stock information

Nephrops stock assessment and management is based on a system of management units (A-R), which broadly coincide with ICES areas, and functional units (FU)(1-33), which cover the distribution of the species, particularly in relation to suitable habitat types. In part due to the difficulty of assessing stocks, which may spend significant amounts of time in burrows, a fishery independent survey method using video surveys has been developed, which uses burrow density to estimate stock biomass. This technique is now widely, though not comprehensively, used within the management units, enabling recommended TACs and management advice to be provided by ICES. Fisheries landings data are also available to augment the video survey data.
The stock is not overfished. There were concerns that fishing mortality was too high, but it has recently reduced and the fishery is no longer undergoing overfishing. Biomass is well above (1.4 times MSY Btrigger) MSYBtrigger. Fishing mortality was fluctuating around FMSY but has now decreased to be slightly below FMSY.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

The main management measures applied to the Nephrops stock are area restrictions, quotas, effort restrictions and technical measures.

Nephrops are managed primarily through Total Allowable Catches (TACs). However, these TACs are applied to all of the North Sea Nephrops, which cover eight functional units, opposed to each functional unit. This is shown to be ineffective at managing the stock as it has resulted in uncontrolled concentration of fishing effort in specific fishing grounds.

Stock assessments are conducted at functional unit levels and the North West Advisory Council has advised TACs to be allocated at a functional unit level, so that TACs are appropriate for the biomass of Nephrops in each functional unit.

The quota used in this area in 2017 was above that recommended by scientific advice: ICES advised that catches in 2017 should be no more than 1070 tonnes, in that year total estimated catches were 1131 tonnes. 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.

Management measures to protect the stock include effort management, 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. A ban on the use of multitrawl gears (three or more trawls) for all Scottish boats was introduced in April 2008, limiting the expansion of effective effort. The landings obligation forbids discards except in the North Sea, the West of Scotland and the Irish Sea where discarding is only permitted when Nephrops are below the Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS), 25mm.

Specifically in the Moray Firth, since 2010 a number of vessels are reported to be using large square-meshed panels (of up to 160 mm). In 2012 most vessels operating in Division 4a and the Farn Deeps fish exclusively with specified highly selective gears (that have been shown to reduce cod catches by 60% by weight) or have installed 200 mm square mesh panels. At the end of 2012, a voluntary code of conduct for Nephrops trawlers (Moray Firth Prawn Agreement) was agreed amongst fishers for the Inner Moray Firth so as to protect the viability of smaller vessels based in the area. The agreement proposes that an area in the most westerly part of the Moray Firth be reserved for vessels under 300 HP, with a further small area reserved for vessels under 400 HP.

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.

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. 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 also observer coverage in the fishery.

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 catches exceeded that advised by ICES in 2017, therefore, Nephrops stocks are 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.

The cod biomass in the North Sea has been improving and fishing mortality is slightly high. 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.

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 aren’t 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.

Nephrops are found in muddy habitats, which are relatively sensitive to trawling impacts. In the Northern North Sea, 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.


ICES. 2018. Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in Division 4.b, Functional Unit 9 (central North Sea, Moray Firth). Published 29 June 2018. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/nep.fu.9.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.

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

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

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

Drewery, J., Edridge, A., Kinghorn, M., Kynoch, R.J., Mair, J., O'Neill, F. G and K Summerbell. Effects of Codend Mesh Size and Twine Number on Nephrops Selectivity. Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Vol 6 No 3. ISSN: 2043-7722. Aberdeen, UK.

ICES. 2018. Cod (Gadus morhua) in Subarea 4, Division 7.d, and Subdivision 20 (North Sea, eastern English Channel, Skagerrak). Published 29 June 2018 Version 2: 8 August 2018. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/cod.27.47d20.pdf

ICES 2018. Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) in Subarea 4, Division 6.a, and Subdivision 20 (North Sea, West of Scotland, Skagerrak). Published 29 June 2018 Version 2: 8 August 2018. Available at: http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/had.27.46a20.pdf

ICES. 2018. Hake (Merluccius merluccius) in subareas 4, 6, and 7, and in divisions 3.a, 8.a-b, and 8.d, Northern stock (Greater North Sea, Celtic Seas, and the northern Bay of Biscay). Published 29 June 2018. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/hke.27.3a46-8abd.pdf

ICES. 2017. Anglerfish (Lophius budegassa, Lophius piscatorius) in subareas 4 and 6 and Division 3.a (North Sea, Rockall and West of Scotland, Skagerrak and Kattegat). Published 31 October 2017. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/anf.27.3a46.pdf

ICES. 2018. Whiting (Merlangius merlangus) in Subarea 4 and Division 7.d (North Sea and eastern English Channel). Published 29 June 2018 Version 2: 6 August 2018. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/whg.27.47d.pdf

ICES. 2018. Saithe (Pollachius virens) in subareas 4 and 6, and in Division 3.a (North Sea, Rockall and West of Scotland, Skagerrak and Kattegat). Published 29 June 2018 Version 2: 8 August 2018. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/pok.27.3a46.pdf

ICES. 2018. Plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) in Subarea 4 (North Sea) and Subdivision 20 (Skagerrak). Published 29 June 2018 Version 2: 8 August 2018. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/ple.27.420.pdf

ICES. 2018. Megrim (Lepidorhombus spp.) in divisions 4.a and 6.a (northern North Sea, West of Scotland. Published 29 June 2018. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/lez.27.4a6a.pdf.