Lobster, European

Homarus gammarus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Pot or creel
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Jersey
Stock detail — Granville Bay Treaty Area
Certification — Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Picture of Lobster, European

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

Updated: December 2020.

This stock uses a standardised abundance index (IAS) to determine stock status. To be considered healthy, the stock must score 1 in the IAS. In Normandy, the IAS for 2019 is 1.15 and is therefore within the healthy (green) zone. In Jersey, the IAS for 2018 and 2019 is 0.98 and 0.99 respectively and is therefore marginally below the target reference point. Initial results from a SPiCT model predict that stock biomass has fluctuated around BMSY in recent years, although it is currently just below BMSY and that fishing mortality is currently below FMSY. In this fishery, harvest control rules require that if the standardised abundance index (IAS) falls below 1, then the management authorities will immediately review other indices of stock status and may take immediate management actions. In 2020, the Jersey lobster management group agreed on a reduction in the number of pots available to the fleet, to promote a reduction in effort. There is now a maximum of 750 pots per commercial shellfish vessel and 60 pots per other vessels. There is a minimum conservation reference size of 87mm in place, however, this fishery has not banned the landing of berried and v-notched lobsters. Pot fishing is considered sustainable as it is selective for larger individuals and has minimal impact on the surrounding environment.

Biology

The lobster’s appearance is unmistakable: dark blue shell (turns red only when boiled) with pale yellow markings and long red antennae. The claws are of unequal size, with one large crushing claw and a slimmer cutting claw. European lobster can be found from Scandinavia to North Africa, including the Mediterranean and Black Seas, where they occupy solitary shelters in rocky substrates at depths of 0 to 150 m, but usually not deeper than 50 m. They are nocturnal and territorial animals living in holes or crevices. Common total length: 23 to 50 cm (maximum length 100 cm), maximum weight 9kg. In the absence of exploitation the life span is probably 10 years, but they may live 50 years or more. They are opportunistic scavengers, as well as preying on small crustaceans, molluscs and polychaetes. European lobsters are sedentary animals with home ranges varying from 2 to 10 km, although some inshore/offshore and longshore migration may take place. In most areas lobsters do not mature before 5 to 8 years (depending on water temperature), with females maturing at around 7.5-8.0 cm carapace length (CL). Males reach sexual maturity earlier than females. Genetic data suggests that females in the wild mate with a single male. Results from tank experiments demonstrate that individual males can fertilise several females in the same season and this is likely to be the case in the wild. Thus the normal breeding system in the wild is likely to be polygynous. Lobsters mate in late summer when the females moult, but females can store the sperm packet over the winter so eggs are not fertilised and laid until the following summer (around July). Since eggs are carried for 10 to 11 months, females with eggs (termed ‘berried’) are usually found throughout the year. Moulting occurs in summer, approximately once a year for adults, becoming less frequent in older animals, and mating occurs soon after the female has moulted. There are 3 larval stages, lasting 3-4 weeks, before the post-larvae settle on the seabed. Larval distribution depends on local hydrographical conditions and pre-recruit behaviour, and as such, is highly variable.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

This stock uses a standardised abundance index (IAS) to determine stock status. The IAS declined from 2015 to 2018 in both Normandy and Jersey, but there was a minor increase in 2019. To be considered healthy, the stock must score 1 in the IAS. In Normandy, the IAS for 2019 is 1.15 and is therefore within the healthy (green) zone. In Jersey, the IAS for 2018 and 2019 is 0.98 and 0.99 respectively and is therefore marginally below the target reference point.

Initial results from a SPiCT model predict that stock biomass has fluctuated around BMSY in recent years, although it is currently just below BMSY. The model also predicts that fishing mortality (F) is currently below FMSY but has fluctuated around FMSY is recent years. These results are only considered preliminary. Annual landings for lobster In Jersey have decreased in recent years, while landings in Normandy have remained stable.

Management

Criterion score: 0.25 info

Co-management of this area takes place within the framework of the Granville Bay Treaty (between the UK and France), which allows for shared access to French and Jersey waters in Granville Bay, with shared management of marine resources. The harvest strategy for the Normandy and Jersey fishery includes a limit on the number of vessels participating in the fishery, a limit on the number of pots, restrictions on the use of parlour pots, mandatory use of escape gaps, and closed areas. There is a minimum conservation reference size of 87mm carapace length in place. This fishery has no total allowable catch (TAC) and there is no prohibition on the landing of berried females which was introduced in the English fishery.

In Jersey, a lobster management group has been formed compromising of commercial offshore fishermen, inshore fishermen, recreational fishermen, fishmongers and Marine Resources Jersey representatives. The group discusses potential management measures in response to the state of the stock. In the past, fishing effort was gradually reduced through a reduction in the number of licenses available. The number of licenses in Jersey has declined from 328 in 1996 to 130. In 2020, the lobster management group agreed on a reduction in the number of pots available to the fleet, to promote a reduction in effort. Only 80% of pots from a retiring vessel are available to other vessels. There is now a maximum of 750 pots per commercial shellfish vessel and 60 pots per other vessels, a global pot limit for the fleet of 44,000 pots (agreed in principal) and an increase in “no parlour pot zones” (agreed in principal).

In this fishery, harvest control rules require that if the standardised abundance index (IAS) falls below 1, then the management authorities will immediately review other indices of stock status, including catch per unit effort (CPUE) from surveys, size structure from surveys and landings, the characteristics of reproductive females, and indices of recruitment from surveys. If these other indices also raise concerns about the state of the stock, then management action is taken immediately. If there are no problems with the other indices, current management measures will continue for one more year and then observe if a downward trend in IAS continues. If the decline occurs, various management measures are taken to reduce fishing effort. These measures may include a reduction in pots by type or fishing zone, reduction in licenses, introduction of measures against ghost fishing, and potentially limits on boats fishing for both whelks and lobsters. If necessary, other biological management measures may be taken.

This stock has been certified by the Marine Stewardship Council since 2011. There is a condition on certification that reference points must be implemented that will maintain the stock at a level consistent with BMSY or some measure with similar intent.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0 info

The fishery in the Granville Bay Treaty Area (an area shared by France and Jersey under the Granville Bay Treaty) is operated by around 50 vessels from Basse Normandie and 60 to 75 vessels from Jersey. The vessel numbers are imprecise because not all licensed vessels target lobster on a full time basis. The key fishing season for European lobster takes place in summer and autumn. Lobsters are caught in pots, also known as creels, in a mixed fishery with brown crab, and are deployed in strings of 12-50 pots (depending on vessel size – a typical 10m vessel would have pots in strings of around 25 pots). Strings are not generally anchored, but rely on a heavier pot at each end of the string to remain in place. Pots are portable traps made of wood or steel wire and plastic. The lobster is baited into the initial part (the chamber) and moves into the secondary part (the parlour) where it becomes trapped.

Pot fishing is considered sustainable as it is selective for larger individuals and has minimal impact on the surrounding environment. In European lobster fisheries, there is no legislation or regulation to standardise the type of pot used. They tend to be highly selective as undersized animals can be returned to the sea alive and survival rates for non-target organisms are thought to be high. More than half of the bycatch caught are predicted to survive, although there is little available research to prove this. Measures to further reduce bycatch include the use of escape panels to allow undersize animals and bycatch to escape pots. Research studies in Jersey show that catsharks dominate any fish bycatch in the lobster pots. No interactions with endangered, threatened or protected (ETP) species have been reported.

Habitat impacts from potting are low but can occur during deployment, soak time or hauling of the pot, impacting the benthic habitat and associated species through contact with the pot, or by scouring from ropes. Research that has taken place suggests that while some damage does occur, it is unlikely to be significant unless potting intensity is high (defined as approximately 30 pots per 500 square metres). Most damage occurs where traps are set in rocky habitats that are home to corals, sponges, sea whips and other large emergent species. These habitats and species provide nursery areas, refuges from predators and habitat for the settlement of invertebrate spat.

In some circumstances, there can be instances of ghost fishing, when lost fishing gear continues to fish and can entangle a variety of species, but this can be minimised by using appropriate gear and release devices.

References

Cefas. 2020. Lobster (Homarus gammarus). Cefas Stock Status Report 2019 18 pp. Available at https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/928795/Lobster_assessments_2019..pdf [Accessed on 01.12.2020].

Gall, S.C., Rodwell, L.D., Clark, S., Robbins, T., Attrill, M.J., Holmes, L.A. and Sheehan, E.V. 2020. The impact of potting for crustaceans on temperate rocky reef habitats: Implications for management. Marine Environmental Research, 162, p.105134. Available at https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0141113619308657 [Accessed on 08.12.2020].

Government of Jersey. 2018. Marine Resources Annual Report. Available at https://www.gov.je/SiteCollectionDocuments/Government%20and%20administration/R%20Marine%20Resources%20Annual%20Report%202018%2020190820%20DM.pdf [Accessed on 08.12.2020].

Marine Stewardship Council. Normandy and Jersey lobster. Available at https://fisheries.msc.org/en/fisheries/normandy-and-jersey-lobster/about/ [Accessed on 01.12.2020].

Moffat, C., Richardson, H. and Roberts, G. 2020. Natural England marine chalk characterisation project. Natural England Report NERR080. Available at http://publications.naturalengland.org.uk/publication/5385776319954944#:~:text=Natural%20England%20Marine%20Chalk%20Characterisation%20Project%20(NERR080),England%20on%202%20March%202020%20.&text=Marine%20chalk%20is%20protected%20within,marine%20chalk%20as%20a%20feature [Accessed on 01.12.2020].

Palomares, M.L.D. and Pauly, D. Editors. 2020. SeaLife Base. Homarus gammarus, European lobster. Available at https://www.sealifebase.ca/summary/Homarus-gammarus.html [Accessed on 01.12.2020].

Seafish. Pots and traps – Brown Crab. Available at https://www.seafish.org/responsible-sourcing/fishing-gear-database/gear/pots-and-traps-brown-crab/ [Accessed on 07.12.2020].

Stevens, B. G. 2020. The ups and downs of traps: environmental impacts, entanglement, mitigation, and the future of trap fishing for crustaceans and fish, ICES Journal of Marine Science. Available at https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsaa135 [Accessed on 08.12.2020].