Prawn, Northern prawns, Northern shrimp

Pandalus borealis

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North West Atlantic (FAO 21)
Stock area — Disko Bay and West Greenland
Stock detail — NAFO Subareas 1A-F and 0A
Certification — Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Picture of Prawn, Northern prawns, Northern shrimp

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

Updated: May 2020.

The stock is in a good state and fishing pressure is within sustainable levels. There is a good management plan in place for this fishery, however, Total Allowable Catches have been set above advised limits, resultant from a lack of effective co-operation between countries to deliver a consistent management strategy for the fishery. Measures are in place to reduce bycatch, and the impacts of fishing gear on the seabed. Demersal trawling can have seabed impacts and can catch vulnerable deep-sea species.

The West Greenland Coldwater Prawn fishery is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council as a responsibly managed fishery. The fishery was re-certified in 2018 following initial certification in 2013, and there is a condition on the certification to improve cooperation between countries.


Pandalus borealis, the northern prawn, or cold-water prawn (also known as 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 15cm. This species inhabits areas of soft, muddy sediment with a depth range from 20-800 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 info

The stock is in a healthy state and fishing pressure is within sustainable limits.

According to the most recent stock assessment carried out in 2018, Greenland Institutes of Natural Resources (GINR) estimated shrimp biomass (B) to be above B maximum sustainable yield (Bmsy) and fishing mortality (Z (fishery and cod predation)) below Zmsy with high probability. B was calculated to be 1.14 and F, 0.88. I.e. biomass was 14% above the level associated with Bmsy indicating that the stock is not in an overfished state, and fishing mortality was 12% below the level associated with Zmsy at an assumed catch of 101 250 tonnes, indicating that the stock is not subject to overfishing. The probability of Z exceeding Zmsy is 36%, which exceeds the management threshold of 35%. Catch per unit effort (CPUE) data shows a slight decrease in 2018 but remains at a relatively high level. B is similar to that observed in 2017, and slightly lower than the long-term average over the last 20 years. The probability of B being below the biomass limit (Blim), where stock size is in danger of collapse is <1%. Recruitment is reported as being close to the 2005-18 average, with prospects for short term recruitment considered to be fair, as the relative number of age 2 shrimps is almost at its 20 year average. Estimates have been guided by data and information from the fishery, Ministry of Fisheries Hunting and Agriculture (MFHA) in Aalborg, scientists from GINR and the control authority, Greenland Licence Control (GFLK), and advice is provided to the Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO).

In 2018, GINR reviewed the risks of B falling below Bmsy or Blim or Z exceeding Zmsy between 2019-2021 for a range of catch levels and incorporating varying levels of cod predation. The projections indicate that catches in the region of 100 000 - 105 000 tonnes are likely to be sustainable should a mortality risk criterion of 35% be observed, provided there are only moderately large gains in the cod stock in the next few years.


Criterion score: 0.25 info

There is a good management plan in place for this fishery which is independently reviewed by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) third party certification. However, TACs have been set above advised catch limits, resultant from a lack of effective co-operation between countries to deliver a consistent management strategy for the fishery.

A management plan for the West Greenlandic shrimp fishery has been in place since 2010. The main objectives are to maintain biomass (B) close to but above the Maximum Sustainable Yield (Bmsy), set short term TAC limits to reduce risk of exceeding fishing mortality (F) above Fmsy and restricting annual fluctuations in set TACs to 12.5% to ensure stability in the economy for Greenland’s fishing sector. The management plan includes conservation measures, such as mandatory use of Nordmøre sorting grids.

In 2013 the West Greenland Coldwater Prawn fishery became the first Greenlandic fishery to achieve MSC certification for sustainable fishing. The fishery was re-certified by MSC in 2018 following initial certification in 2013 and applies to the entire fishery. The Greenland fishery exploits the stock in Subarea 1 (Div. 1A–F) and the Canadian fishery has been limited to Div. 0A. The fishery has moved north and since 2009 at least 35% of the total catch was taken in Northeast Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) Division 1A.

Both Canada and Greenland set independent and autonomous TACs and have individual, and independent strategies to achieve management objectives. In 2018, Greenland’s TAC was set at 105 000 tonnes which coincided with advice and included an 8% share set aside for Canada. However, this TAC distribution method is not agreed with Canada and Canada continue to set autonomous TACs. Consequently, the total TAC amounted to 114 873 tonnes in 2018, 9% above advice. This approach has led to the total TAC being above NAFO Scientific Council advice, due to a lack of agreement on catch shares. For several years talks between Canada and Greenland have been ongoing but as yet there is no agreement on catch shares. An agreement between the parties on joint action to reduce exploitation to acceptable levels in the event of such a situation is needed. Between 2014-18, the total TAC has exceeded advice by an average of 18%. However, official landings have been below the set TAC by an average of 11% and have only exceeded scientific advice by an average of 5% between 2014-18. Greenland Institutes of Natural Resources (GINR) advises that catches in 2019 and 2021 should be no more than 105 000 tonnes to safeguard stock.

Nonetheless, the fishery is performing well against the MSC Conditions of Certification (CoC) and performance indicators. The single CoC on this fishery is to ensure effective co-operation with Canada to deliver consistent management outcomes. This objective is on target.

Observer coverage accounts discarding to be low. Whilst discarding of shrimps is prohibited.

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 off the shores of Greenland and Canada, in Baffin Bay and the Davis Strait.

.The shrimp fishery uses trawls (single, double or triple) with a minimum cod-end mesh size of 40 mm, in depths between 150-600 m. Nordmøre sorting grates are also used with bar spacing of 22 mm, which is mandatory to minimise bycatch of non-target species. The grate filters the catch allowing animals larger than the grate size to escape through an opening at the top of the net, whilst retaining the smaller shrimp. Other gear restrictions include the use of rolling rockhopper ground gear and toggle chains to keep trawl netting off the bottom of the seabed, to reduce benthic impacts and bycatch of bottom dwelling species.

Bycatch of ground fish species by small meshed shrimp trawls is a concern. Two species of wolfish, Anarhichus denticulatus and Anarhichus minor listed as threatened under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), are a bycatch in the Northern shrimp fishery. However, the Nordmøre exclusion device reduces risk of bycatch and has significantly decreased groundfish mortality. Bycatch of Aesop/striped prink shrimp (Pandalus montaguii) is monitored and accounts for <1% of the total catch. No by-catches of seals or whales are recorded from this fishery and the risk for entangling marine mammals is evaluated to be low.

The fishing area is subject to continuous seabed monitoring. To protect vulnerable and previously untouched marine environment areas environmental protection measures were introduced. On the basis of observations of significant occurrences of sea pens, which are considered to be indicator species for Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs), a number of areas in the Gulf of Melville are closed to all fishing with bottom-moving gear in accordance with Self-Government Order no. 4 of 30th March 2017 on technical conservation measures in fisheries Section 13. In addition, fishing for shrimp with bottom moving gear in areas not previously fished may only take place upon prior application to the Department of Fisheries. No new VMEs have been defined since, and no coral or sea-pen by-catch has been reported. Around three surveys were carried out in 2019. There are plans for a new survey vessel for 2021, and acoustic monitoring is being planned for fjord areas.

The Marine Stewardship Council have made three recommendations to the conditions of certification. The first is for vessels to continue to manage and minimise Pandalus montaguii bycatch. This effort resulted in landing of P. montagui being <1% of the total shrimp landings in 2018, at 133 tonnes. The second recommendation is for improvements to be made to the available information on Pandalus montaguii to better inform assessment approaches. The final recommendation was to ensure that any move on rules, including the threshold levels are at a minimum fully aligned with NAFO/NEAFC recommendations, with particular reference to indicators of vulnerable marine ecosystems.

Demersal otter trawling can catch a number of unwanted species, including commercial species, and vulnerable species such as sharks and rays. 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. 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.


Burmeister, A. and Riget, F. (2018). A Provisional Assessment of the Shrimp Stock off West Greenland, in 2018 NAFO SCR Doc. 18/056. Available at [Accessed 20.05.2020]

DFO (2017). Assessment of risk of shrimp fishing to conservation objectives of the Narwhal Overwintering and Coldwater Coral Zone. DFO Canada. Sci. Advis. Sec. Sci. Resp. 2017/018. Available at [Accessed 20.05.2020]

EC (2014). Ex post and ex ante evaluation of the Protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement between the EU, and the Government of Denmark and the Home Rule Government of Greenland –Final Report. Consortium: COFREPECHE (leader), MRAG, NFDS and POSEIDON. Available at [Accessed 19.05.2020]

MSC (2019). 82026 WGCPrawn 2-SA1 Final (West Greenland coldwater prawn Surveillance Report). Available for download at [Downloaded 18.05.2020]

NAMMCO (2017). Review of existing knowledge on marine mammal by catch in Greenland. Available at [Accessed 20.05.2020]

NIPAG (2018). Chapter 3. Northern shrimp (Pandalus borealis) off West Greenland (NAFO SA 0 and SA 1), in NAFO/ICES Pandalus Assessment Group Meeting, 17 to 22 October 2018, pp.15-27. NAFO Secretariat: Dartmouth, Canada. Available at [Accessed 19.05.2020]

Tallman, R., Janjua, M., Howell, H., Ayles, B., Carmicheal, T., Bernreuther, M., Ferguson, S. and Treble, M. (2016). Pan-Arctic Fisheries and their Assessment, Fisheries and Aquaculture in the Modern World, Heimo Mikkola, IntechOpen, Doi: 10.5772/64745. Available at [Accessed 20.05.2020]