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 — Celtic Sea and West of Scotland
Stock detail — Irish Sea West (Management Area J, FU 15)
Picture of Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

The stock is not overfished and are no longer undergoing overfishing. Biomass and fishing pressure appear to be at healthy levels.

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. In this area, there are high bycatches of cod, whiting, and some haddock. This is a concern because whiting is at very unhealthy levels (where their biomass is under Blim). The majority of whiting caught in this area, are discards in the Nephrops fishery and the whiting are usually below the minimum landings size. Despite the introduction of technical measures to improve the situation, the “total discards estimates remain high”. Therefore, whiting in this area are predicted to become a major 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

Celtic Sea and West of Scotland

Stock information

The stock is not overfished and are no longer undergoing overfishing.

Since 2003, stock abundance has been well above MSY Btrigger (above 1.4 times MSY Btrigger). With the exception of 2014 harvest rates have been above FMSY since 2011, but harvest rates have since declined and are below FMSY.


Criterion score: 0.5 info

There is currently no management plan in this area. There are multiple management measures and a variety of enforcement is employed in the fishery. The main management measures 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) of 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.

Whilst management measures exist in the fishery, quota management may not be wholly effective: quota is not applied at the functional unit level and therefore, the stock is at risk of overfishing. Nephrops stock assessments are conducted by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES). Stock assessments are produced for 33 areas across the Northeast Atlantic, called functional units. However, management is applied to a separate 18 areas, called management units. These management units broadly overlap with the functional units, but not very effectively, previously resulting in overfishing. Scientists advice that TACs should be allocated at a functional unit level, so that they are appropriate for the Nephrops in each functional unit.

The quota used in this area in 2016 was above that recommended by scientific advice: ICES advised that catches in 2016 should be no more than 8682 tonnes, in that year ICES estimated total catch was 9266 tonnes. A 2016 study showed that discards represent about 20% of the weight of the total catch. Therefore, the current management in this area does not provide adequate safeguards to ensure that local effort is sufficiently limited to avoid depletion of resources in functional units.

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, do not have to keep logbooks. 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 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 therefore, Nephrops stocks are at risk of overfishing.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.75 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. In FU 15, a recent report by the Irish Sea Fisheries Board showed that these species normally include whiting, haddock, cod, flatfish, dogfish, monkfish and rays.

Almost all of the vessels in the area use small mesh nets to target Nephrops. Because of this, the fishery has been unselective. Mitigation measures such as real time closures and square mesh panels were implemented to reduce the risk on the cod in this area. To reduce the risk of the Nephrops fishery on bycatch, sorting grids or 120 mm square mesh panels are compulsory (EU 227/2013). Separator trawls were introduced in the Irish fishery more than 10 years ago, in an attempt to reduce cod bycatch. By 2002, 80% of vessels were using separator trawls. Currently, cod discards in this area have been almost exclusively occurred in the Nephrops fishery. Their populations have substantially increased in recent years and are approaching the MSYBtrigger reference point. However, whiting populations are not at safe levels: the majority (78%) of whiting discards occur in the Nephrops fishery and are below the minimum landings size. Despite several technical measures being introduced into the Nephrops fishery to reduce finfish bycatch and discards, total discards estimates remain high. Whiting are expected to become a major choke species in this area (7a). To further increase selectivity in the fishery, the Irish fishery have focused on increasing the codend mesh size, square mesh and other types of escape panels as well as the use of rigid sorting grids. The Irish fishery is currently conducting gear trials through a Fishery Improvement Project. Additionally, in Irish waters, the cod recovery plan (Articles 11 and 13 of Regulation (EC) 1342/2008) has imposed regulations and certain gear modifications are required when fishing for Nephrops (300mm SMP, SELTRA box codend or a rigid sorting grid with 35mm bar spacing). Ireland has increased the mesh size in Nephrops fisheries, from 70mm to 80mm since 1 January 2017 under law SI 510 of 2016. 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 the Irish Sea, these trails include the Irish Sea selectivity trials.

There are a number of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in this Functional Unit which are in need of protection from damaging activities. The nephrops fishery is known to overlap with parts of these MPAs, but it is not clear by how much. For these components, MCS considers bottom trawling in MPAs as a default red rating unless there is evidence (such as an environmental impact assessment (EIA)) indicating the activity does not damage the integrity of the site.


ICES. 2018. Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in Division 7.b, Functional Unit 17 (west of Ireland, Aran grounds). Published 31 October 2017. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/nep.fu.17.pdf.

ICES. 2018. Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in Division 7.a, Functional Unit 15 (Irish Sea, West). Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Stock%20Annexes/2018/nep.fu.15_SA.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.

REGULATION (EU) No 227/2013 OF THE EUROPEAN PARLIAMENT AND OF THE COUNCIL of 13 March 2013. Available at: https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/HTML/?uri=CELEX:32013R0227&from=EN

NWWAC. 2017. De minimis proposal for undersized whiting in the TR2 Nephrops trawl fishery (Irish Sea).

Tyndall, P., Oliver, M., Browne, D., McHugh, M., Minto, C., and Cosgrove, R. 2017. The SELTRA sorting box: A highly selective gear for fish in the Irish Nephrops fishery. Irish Sea Fisheries Board (BIM), Fisheries Conservation Report, February 2017. 12 pp.

Oliver, M., McHugh, M., Browne, D., Murphy, S., Cosgrove, R., 2017. Nephrops survivability in the Irish demersal trawl fishery. Galway, Ireland. Available at: http://www.bim.ie/media/bim/content/publications/fisheries/6882-BIM-nephrops-survival-report-final.pdf