Prawn, Northern prawns, Northern shrimp

Pandalus borealis

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — North Sea (Norwegian Deep), Skagerrak and Kattegat
Stock detail — 4a, 3a
Picture of Prawn, Northern prawns, Northern shrimp

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

Updated: March 2020.

The stock is in an overfished state but fishing pressure is now within sustainable levels. There is a long term management plan in place for this stock which follows scientific advice and some technical measures are in place to reduce discards, and others are being developed. Demersal trawling can have seabed impacts and catch vulnerable deep-sea species such as roundnose grenadier and sharks.


Pandalus borealis, the northern prawn, or cold-water prawn (also known as pink or deep-water shrimp in North America), are crustaceans belonging to the family Pandalidae. The species has a wide distribution throughout the North Atlantic and North Pacific Oceans (the Pacific form is generally regarded as a subspecies, Pandalus borealiseous). The species occurs as far south as the North Sea, Massachusetts, Oregon and Japan. Northern shrimp are hermaphroditic. They develop initially as males, then become female after around 3 years, and complete their lives as females. Life span is around 5 years, although possibly up to 8 years in northern latitudes. They spawn in autumn and females carry the eggs until April/May, when they hatch and the pelagic larvae are released. Total adult length is about 15 cm. This species inhabits areas of soft, muddy sediment with a depth range from 20-1300 m. Prawns migrate vertically at night to feed on zooplankton. Northern prawn are heavily predated on by fish and marine mammals.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

The stock is in a poor state, but fishing pressure is within sustainable limits to aid future recovery. In 2020, the spawning-stock biomass (SSB) was below the MSY Btrigger and fishing mortality (F) in 2019 was below Fmsy.

The spawning–stock biomass (SSB) declined after 2008 and has fluctuated at a lower level since then, slightly above Blim. In 2020, the ratio of B:Bmsy was 0.84. SSB in 2020 is between MSY Btrigger and Blim. Fishing mortality (F) has been around FMSY since 2011 and is below Fmsy in 2019. In 2019 the ratio of F:Fmsy was 0.88. Recruitment has been below average since 2008, except for the 2013-year class.

In April 2018, a long-term management strategy (LTMS) was agreed by the EU and Norway. ICES has evaluated this strategy and found it to be precautionary. The LTMS has been applied since 2019 and the Total Allowable Catch (TACs) for 2019, 2020 and 2021 have been set within the framework of the LTMS. In 2019, the advised catch for 2020 was 12 439 tonnes. In 2020, the advised catch for 2020 was reduced by 29% to 8 736 tonnes. This is because actual catches in 2019 were higher than advised catches, owing to a combination of carryover from the 2018 fishing year, discarding, and exceeding the TAC by 150 tonnes.


Criterion score: 0.5 info

There is a good management plan in place for this fishery, but the catch has been above the advised catch limit.

The stock within the North Sea is covered by the EU’s North Sea Multi Annual Management Plan (MAP), and although the MAP has not been adopted by Norway, joint TACs are agreed through the EU-Norway Agreement. A Long-Term Management Strategy (LTMS) was agreed by EU and Norway in 2018 and has been implemented since 2019. ICES has evaluated it to be precautionary. It includes targets for F and B that follow ICES advice and sets TACs for the year based on whether the stock is above or below MSY Btrigger. Total Allowable Catches (TACs) include all removals from the stock.

EU and Norway acknowledge some issues with adequate control and enforcement of cross-border fishing activities and are reviewing this. Technical measures are being developed, aimed at reducing discards, improving selectivity and harmonising where there are differences between the EU and Norway’s legislation. This includes a joint Real Time Closure: if more that 20% of at least 2 hauls in 96 hours, or 40% of one haul, is made up of undersize (below 6.5 cm) prawns, the area in which they are caught (up to 50 sq. nautical miles) is closed for 14 days. This came into force on 1 July 2019 and is in force across the EU-Norway border. Bottom trawls with mesh size of 35 mm or more and a sorting grid with 19 mm bar spacing at the top and 9.5 mm bar spacing at the bottom (which allows small animals to escape the net) are allowed in the RTC.

Since 1992, the shrimp fishery has been regulated by a TAC. The overall TAC is shared according to historical landings, giving Norway 59%, Denmark 27%, and Sweden 14% between 2011 and 2019. The shrimp fishery is also regulated by a minimum mesh size (35 mm stretched), and by restrictions in the amount of landed bycatch. Sorting grids are mandatory in the whole area. In 2009, an EU ban on high-grading was implemented and since 2016, the EU landing obligation applies for Pandalus within areas 3.a and 4.a. Norway has had a discard ban for many years.

There is a management strategy in place for setting TAC levels, which follows scientific advice. ICES advises that when the LTMS is applied, catches in 2020 should be no more than 8 736 tonnes. The EU and Norway set the 2019 TAC with an agreed split between the two parties. The TACs are historically split between areas 3a (Skagerrak and Kattegat) and 4a (Northern North Sea in the Norwegian Deep), this is not clear within the 2020 allocation. TACs are generally set in line with advice, which was exact in 2019 when the LTMS began. On average between 2015-2018 the total catch was 4% above the advice and broadly equal to the TAC. Realized catches in 2019 were 29% higher than the advised catches, due to banking from 2018 (768 tonnes), discarding (368 tonnes), lack of correction for the loss in weight due to on-board boiling (ca. 463 tonnes), and exceeding the 2019 TAC by ca. 150 tonnes. Notably, the LTMS has been in force since 1 January 2019 and has since specified that future banking will only be allowed when the stock is above MSY Btrigger. Furthermore, the LTMS assumes that all catches are based on live weight and proposes that National catch statistics should be adjusted to take account of the loss in weight due to on-board boiling.

The average discard rates of the total annual catch between 2014-2019 was 7%. The discard rate since 2016 has been <5% of the total annual catch.

The UK is due to leave the EU on 31st December 2020, and new UK Fisheries legislation is being developed during 2020. MCS will update ratings with new management information when new legislation comes into force.

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: 0.5 info

Northern shrimp is caught by bottom trawling in Swedish, Danish and Norwegian waters of the North Sea.

Twin trawl nets are predominantly used with a minimum legal mesh size of 35 mm. Species selective sorting grids are mandatory in the whole area and are implemented throughout the fishery. Since 1997, trawls used in Swedish national waters must be equipped with a Nordmøre grid, with a bar spacing of 19 mm, which excludes fish >approximately 20 cm length from the catch. Landings delivered by vessels using grids (without a fish tunnel) comprise 95–99% of shrimp. Following an agreement between EU and Norway, the Nordmøre grid has been mandatory since 1st February 2013 in all shrimp fisheries in Skagerrak (except Norwegian national waters within the 4 nm limit where the grid became mandatory in 2019). From 1 January 2015, the grid has also been mandatory in shrimp fisheries in the North Sea south of 62˚N.

Shrimp fisheries in the Norwegian Deep and Skagerrak have bycatches of 10–23% (by weight) of commercially valuable species, which are legal to land if quotas allow. Bycatch species are dominated by saithe and cod, among other marketable fish. Cod is a vulnerable stock therefore any bycatch is of concern. The Pandalus fishery in 2019 recorded cod bycatch landings at 294.7 tonnes in 3a and 59.1 tonnes in 4a East.

Shrimp trawling in the North Sea frequently catches vulnerable deep-sea species. If the fish quotas allow, it is legal to use a fish retention device of 120 mm square mesh tunnel at the grid’s fish outlet. The use of a fish retention device prevents the escape of larger individuals of non-commercial species. The use of a fish retention device also prevents the escape of larger individuals of non-commercial species. Deep-sea species such as roundnose grenadier, rabbitfish, and sharks are frequently caught in shrimp trawls in the deeper parts of Skagerrak and the Norwegian Deep. No quantitative data on this mainly discarded catch are available and the impact on stocks is difficult to assess.

Demersal otter trawling can catch several unwanted species, including commercial species, and vulnerable species such as sharks and rays. However, in the North Sea, discard rates of unwanted species are lower than the average (which in general is 30-40% of total catch by weight), at around 16% for commercial species.

Demersal otter trawls use doors to hold nets open that penetrate the seabed, resulting in the abrasion of habitat features. The ground ropes, sweeps and bridles of the trawl can have similar abrasive impact. Various closures are in place in the area of this stock, including UK and European Marine Protected Areas. Some MPAs are designated to protect benthic features. If those MPAs were found to be subjected to bottom trawling, MCS would consider it a default red rating unless there is evidence (e.g. environmental impact assessment) indicating the activity does not damage the integrity of the site.


EU. 2019. EU-Norway Fisheries Consultation: Northern Prawn. London, 11 April 2019. Available at [Accessed 15.04.2020]

EU. 2019. EU-Norway Fisheries Consultations for 2020: Skagerrak and Kattegat. Brussels, 13 December 2019. Available at [Accessed 17.04.2020]

ICES. 2020. Joint NAFO/ICES Pandalus Assessment Working Group (NIPAG). ICES Scientific Reports, 2:19. 22 pp, doi: 10.17895/ Available at [Accessed 15.04.2020]

ICES. 2020. Northern shrimp (Pandalus borealis) in divisions 3.a and 4.a East (Skagerrak and Kattegat and northern North Sea in the Norwegian Deep). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2020. ICES Advice, pra.27.3a4a, doi: 10.17895/ices.advice.5911 Available at [Accessed 15.04.2020]