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
Picture of Lobster, European

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

The lobster fishery in the Granville Bay Treaty Area, Jersey, is certified as an environmentally responsible fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Avoid sourcing animals below the legal minimum landing size, egg-bearing or large animals (females) which contribute to the breeding stock. The number of eggs produced by an egg-bearing female is proportional to her size.


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

The exploitation level is between MSY target level and the maximum reference point limit for both sexes and has decreased for males since 2013. The status of the stock in relation to the fishing rate reference points has not changed since the last assessment in 2014.


Co-management of the fishery 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 Granville Bay Treaty sets out objectives for fisheries in the shared Granville Bay Treaty area. Management is by control of effort. There is a maximum number of licences in both jurisdictions and for the Granville Bay Treaty area. Fishermen are subject to a maximum number of pots, and the use of parlour pots is restricted in some areas. There is a minimum landing size and five closed areas where lobster fishing is not permitted in French waters. Much of the area is designated or protected in some way, either by Natura 2000 (SPA) or Ramsar designations. Retained species are brown crab and to a lesser extent spider and velvet swimming crab. The only by-catch identified is the bait used in the pots (freezer damaged fish or trawler by-catch). A wide variety of protected species use the area but none interact with the fishery. The lobster fishery in the Granville Bay Treaty Area is certified as an environmentally responsible fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Capture Information

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 in either Basse Normandie or Jersey, so the number of vessels targeting lobster is an estimated proportion of those that are eligible to do so. Of those that do target lobster, many are part time. The majority of fishing vessels are less than 10m and nearly all are less than 12m. All these vessels require a licence from the relevant authority to fish in their territorial waters, plus a further joint ‘Granville Bay’ licence to fish in the shared management zone (this system is described in detail in Section 3 below). The vessels fish for lobster using two types of pots: i) inkwell pots / casiers classiques and ii) parlour pots / casiers piges. The inkwell pots are a simple round or square pot with an opening at the top from which lobster may enter and exit at will. The parlour pots are rectangular with two chambers, and trap the lobster inside. Parlour pots are strictly restricted on the French side, less so on the Jersey side, and in all cases are required to have an escape gap for undersized lobster. Pots are deployed in strings of 12-50 pots (depending on vessel size - a typical 10m vessel would have pots in strings of ~25). They are not generally anchored, but rely on a heavier pot at each end of the string to remain in place. Both types of pot target both lobster and brown crab (Cancer pagurus) in a mixed fishery. A Basse Normandie vessel may have a maximum of 1000 pots, while a Jersey vessel may have up to 1500 - most vessels have fewer.


Agnalt, A.-L., Jorstad, K.E., Kristiansen, T.S., Nostvold, E., Farestveit, E.,Nass, H.O.I. and Svasand, T., (2004). Enhancing the European lobster (Homarus gammarus) stock at Kvitsoy Islands: Perspectives of rebuilding Norwegian stocks, In: "Stock enhancement and sea ranching. Developments, pitfalls and opportunities"
Bannister, R.C.A., Addison, J.T., and Lovewell, S.R.J. 1994. Growth, movement, recapture rate and survival of hatchery-reared lobsters (Homarus gammarus Linnaeus, 1758) released into the wild on the English East Coast. Crustaceana, 67: 156-172
Holthuis, L.B. 1991. FAO Species Catalogue. Vol. 13. Marine lobsters of the world. An annotated and illustrated catalogue of species of interest to fisheries known to date. FAO Fish. Synop. 125(13):292p. Rome: FAO. http://www.sealifebase.org
Leber, K.M., Kitada, S., Blankenship, h.l., and Svasand, T (eds). Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford. 415-426., 5 http://genimpact.imr.no/__data/page/7650/european_lobster.pdf
MacAlister Elliott and Partners Ltd (2011) Public Certification Report. Normandy and Jersey lobster (Homarus gammarus) Fishery. http://www.msc.org/track-a-fishery/certified/north-east-atlantic/normandy-and-jersey-lobster/assessment-downloads-1/Public_Certification_Report.pdf
Van der Meeren, G.I. (2003). The potential of ecological studies to improve on the survival of cultivated and released aquatic organisms: insights fromfunctional morphology and behaviour studies of the European lobster Homarus gammarus. Dr. philos. Thesis, University of Bergen.