Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Celtic Sea and West of Scotland (Porcupine Bank)
Stock detail — 7b-c, 7j-k, Functional Unit 16
Updated: November 2020
The small Norway lobster is usually caught by trawling, often using nets with small mesh sizes, and therefore bycatch of other species and habitat impacts on the seabed are among the biggest concerns in these fisheries. In Porcupine Bank, fishing pressure on this stock is within sustainable limits, and while there are no reference points for the abundance, it is higher than the recent average. Quota is applied at the functional unit level and therefore this functional unit has better management than many others. Catches have in general been below the TACs and the scientific advice in recent years. In this area Nephrops are generally caught in by trawls using a smaller mesh size (80-99mm), and therefore there is a higher risk of bycatch than in other demersal trawl fisheries which use larger mesh sizes. A 2011 survey indicated that discarding in this fishery was around 50% of the total catch by weight, mainly bluemouth, blue whiting and argentines - deep-sea species that are not considered to be at risk. Of greater concern in this fishery is that trawling takes place in relatively deep seas (300-600m), where habitats are more vulnerable to the effects of trawling. Surveys indicate that most of Porcupine Bank is trawled at least once per year, and therefore there is a high likelihood of interaction with vulnerable habitats and species such as sea pens.
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 (e.g. SELTRA, incline mesh panel), 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.
Criterion score: 0.25 info
The Nephrops stock on the Porcupine Bank is data limited, but there appears to be no concern for fishing pressure or biomass. Fishing pressure is within sustainable limits and stock abundance is higher than the recent average. Nephrops have a low vulnerability to fishing pressure (14 out of 100).
This is a data limited stock, and there are no reference points for stock abundance. Abundance in 2020 was 1264 million individuals - the highest on record, although records only go back to 2012. The harvest rate has decreased from a high of 10% in 2017 to 4.2% in 2019 - below FMSY (6.2%).
ICES advises that when the EU multiannual plan (MAP) for Western waters and adjacent waters is applied, and assuming zero discards, catches in 2021 that correspond to the F ranges in the MAP are between 2,653 tonnes and 3,290 tonnes. The entire range is considered precautionary when applying the ICES advice rule and the upper limit is equivalent to FMSY. This is an increase of 25% compared to last year’s advice, owing to the increase in stock abundance.
The main uncertainties for the stock assessment relate to mean weight and discarding. The mean weight for this stock has been fluctuating strongly since 2000; declining due to strong recruitment between 2015 and 2017, and increasing in recent years. Up to 2015, discarding was considered negligible for this functional unit. Since 2015 some discarding has been observed, and these observations have shown high variability. Sampling levels are insufficient to estimate total discards accurately. Not including discards in the assessment results in an underestimate of the actual harvest rate. The underwater TV survey has provided abundance for Porcupine Bank since 2012 (except in 2015) with high precision, but the time series is too short to provide an MSY Btrigger.
A 2011 study on Nephrops in the Clyde found a high prevalence of plastics and suggested that this could have implications for the health of the stock - this may have relevance for other Nephrops stocks. Some of the plastics were sourced to fishing waste. Studies have shown that the effects of climate change - warmer waters, reduced oxygen levels, higher ocean acidity, and higher levels of heavy metals - can negatively impact Nephrops’ larval development and make adults more susceptible to disease. Lower oxygen levels can also cause Nephrops to leave their burrows, making them easier to catch.
Criterion score: 0.5 info
There are multiple management measures and a variety of enforcement employed in the fishery. Quota is applied at the functional unit level and therefore this functional unit has better management than many others. The Nephrops stock on the Porcupine Bank is data limited, but there appears to be no concern for fishing pressure or biomass. Catches have in general been below the TACs and the scientific advice in recent years.
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. This stock is covered by the EU Western Waters Multi Annual management Plan (MAP), covering eighteen FUs, including 11-17 and 19-22. Rather than holding strictly to MSY-based reference points, the MAP includes upper and lower ranges for fishing pressure (F). The ranges for F are set at the Functional Unit level and FU-specific management measures can be introduced if individual Nephrops functional units are found to be below the sustainable abundance levels. FU 16, Porcupine Bank, is a deep-water Nephrops stock. Productivity of deep-water Nephrops is generally lower and recruitment is more sporadic than in shelf waters, though individual Nephrops grow to relatively large sizes and attain high market prices. This makes these stocks more vulnerable to overexploitation and potential recruitment failure, as was observed here in the early 2000s. To mitigate against this, there has been a separate catch limit for FU16 within the wider TAC for Subarea 7 since 2011. The TAC for FU16 has matched the advice since 2013, and catches have generally been below this, averaging 88% over the past 5 years. The restrictive FU16 quota increased the risk of area misreporting, discarding and highgrading, but national legislation was introduced in 2018 that prevented Irish vessels from fishing in both FU 16 and other areas during the same fishing trip. This has reduced the amount of misreporting.
Directed fishing for Nephrops in the Porcupine Bank (in ICES areas 7c and 7k) is prohibited from 1-31 May each year. Some parts of the industry consider this to be a more effective conservation measure than catch limits, and are calling for an extension of the closed period. There are also calls from industry to remove the FU-specific quota, but scientific advice is that this should remain in place as the stock is more vulnerable to overexploitation.
The EU Landings Obligation (LO) came into force for Nephrops fisheries in the 80-99 mm trawl fisheries in 2016, and in 2019 it was extended to all species subject to catch limits. This means that individuals that are below the Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS), as well as adults that are unwanted (e.g. over-quota), must be landed rather than discarded at sea. For Nephrops in the Celtic Seas, MCRS is 25 mm carapace length - above the size of maturity of female Nephrops (23mm). There are some exemptions, meaning a certain amount of Nephrops can still be discarded at sea (up to 5% de minimis in some fisheries; full exemptions where there is high survivability e.g. in pots or larger-meshed nets). Irish discard survival experiments indicate that the trawl discard survival may be up to 64% when a SELTRA selectivity device is used. The LO should increase both the number of small (below-MCRS) Nephrops and unwanted adults being landed, but throughout EU waters compliance with this regulation is generally poor and there is often no change in landings. The level of discarding in this fishery is unknown but is not considered to be negligible, meaning the harvest rate is likely to be underestimated.
Both the EU and UK have fishery management measures in place, which can include catch limits, targets for population sizes and fishing mortality, and controls on what fishing gear can be used and where. In the EU, compliance with regulations has been variable, and there are ongoing challenges with implementing some of them. There was a target for fishing to be at Maximum Sustainable Yield by 2020, but this was not achieved. The Landing Obligation (LO), an EU law that the UK has kept after Brexit, requires all fish and shellfish to be landed, even if they are unwanted (over-quota or below minimum size). It aims to promote more selective fishing methods, reduce bycatch, and improve recording of everything that is caught, not just what is wanted. Compliance with the LO is generally poor and actual levels of discards are difficult to quantify using the current fisheries observer programme.
In the UK, it is too early to tell how effective management is, as the Fisheries Act only came into force in January 2021. The Act requires the development of Fisheries Management Plans (FMPs) (replacing EU Multi-Annual Plans) but there are no details yet on how and when these will be developed. FMPs have the potential to be very important tools for managing UK fisheries, although data limitations may delay them for some stocks. MCS is keen to see FMPs for all commercially exploited stocks, especially where stocks are depleted, that include:
Targets for fishing pressure and biomass, and additional management when those targets are not being met
Timeframes for stock recovery
Technologies such as Remote Electronic Monitoring (REM) to support data collection and improve transparency and accountability
Consideration of wider environmental impacts of the fishery
Criterion score: 1 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. Most of the Nephrops catch in Porcupine Bank is by otter trawl. The primary concern in this fishery is that trawling takes place in relatively deep seas (300-600m), where habitats are more vulnerable to the effects of trawling. Surveys indicate that most of Porcupine Bank is trawled at least once per year, and therefore there is a high likelihood of interaction with vulnerable habitats and species such as sea pens.
Demersal otter trawls use smaller mesh-sized nets (80-99mm) to catch Nephrops than other whitefish trawlers (100mm +) and therefore, it can be an unselective fishing gear, catching and discarding a relatively high amount of undersized Nephrops, various whitefish species and flatfish. A 2011 survey indicated that discarding in this fishery was around 50% of the total catch by weight, mainly blue mouth-red fish, blue whiting and argentines - deep-sea species that are not considered to be at risk.
Directed fishing for Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) and associated species (cod, megrims, anglerfish, haddock, whiting, hake, plaice, pollack, saithe, skates and rays, common sole, tusk, blue ling, ling and spurdog) is prohibited from 1-31 May each year within the Porcupine Bank closed area. While other Celtic and Irish Sea Nephrops fisheries overlap areas responsible for significant landings of severely depleted whiting and cod stocks, the Porcupine Bank area (ICES areas b, c, j and k) accounts for much smaller landings of these species.
EU Technical Measures regulations require a square mesh panel of 120mm or a sorting grid to reduce bycatch, and bycatches of cod, haddock and saithe should not exceed 20% of the total weight.
Endangered, threatened and protected species caught in the catch can include some skates, rays and sharks. Skates and rays are generally hardy and can survive when they are discarded, but their survival rates largely depend on how they were caught and handled. Mortality rates in otter trawls are shown to vary between 10-65%, depending on fishing and handling methods. Vessels which employ codes of conduct on skate and ray handling and/or reduce the risk of their capture, will improve their survival rates, though many of these methods aren’t implemented over whole functional unit or regional levels.
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. They are conducting gear trials through a Fishery Improvement Project, but the FIP itself does not apply to this Functional Unit. Until 2018, a cod recovery plan in Irish waters placed additional restrictions on gear, with specific selectivity requirements, but the plan has now come to an end.
Nephrops are mainly found in soft mud habitats, which are also associated other burrowing animals like other crustaceans, bivalves (including the long-lived and slow-growing ocean quahog), and polychaete worms. They are also associated with emergent epifauna such as soft corals and sea pens, which are vulnerable to interactions with bottom-towed fishing gear. Sea-pens and burrowing megafauna communities are included in the OSPAR list of threatened and/or declining species and habitats. Disturbance from trawl gear on the seabed, especially over long periods of time, is likely to affect the structure, species composition, and biodiversity of the burrowed mud community. The Nephrops fishery on the Porcupine Bank takes place on a large area (7,130 sq. km) of complex muddy habitat between depths of 330m and 570m. The 2019 underwater TV survey of the stock observed four species of sea-pen: Virgularia mirabilis, Funiculina quadrangularis, Pennatula phosphorea and the deep-water sea-pen Kophobelemnon stelliferum. F. quadrangularis is particularly vulnerability to trawl mortality. Trawl marks were also observed on 31% of the stations surveyed. The majority of the Porcupine Bank is fished at least once annually.
There are Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in this Functional Unit, some of which are designated to protect seabed features from damaging activities. This Nephrops fishery overlaps with parts of these MPAs, but the proportion of the catch coming from these areas is expected to be relatively low in relation to the unit of assessment (i.e. less than 20% of the catch), and so these impacts have not been assessed within the scale of this rating. Given the important role that MPAs have in recovering the health and function of our seas, MCS encourages the supply chain to identify if their specific sources are being caught from within MPAs. If sources are suspected of coming from within designated and managed MPAs, MCS advises businesses to: establish if the fishing activity is operating legally inside a designated and managed MPA; and to request evidence from the fishery or managing authority to demonstrate that the activity is not damaging to protected features or a threat to the conservation objectives of the site(s).
Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.Abalone
Clam, Manila (Farmed)
Crab, brown or edible
Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi
Mussel, Chilean (Farmed)
Mussel, mussels (Farmed)
Oyster, Native, oysters
Oyster, Pacific, oysters
Oyster, Pacific, oysters (Caught at sea)
Oyster, Pacific, oysters (Farmed)
Prawn, King (whiteleg), prawns
Prawn, Northern prawns, Northern shrimp
Prawn, Tiger prawns (Farmed)
Scallop, King, scallops
Scallop, Queen, scallops
Squid, Japanese flying
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Hinz, H., Prieto, V., and Kaiser, M. J., 2009. Trawl disturbance on benthic communities: chronic effects and experimental predictions. Ecological Applications: A Publication of the Ecological Society of America, 19(3), 761-73. Available at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19425437 [Accessed 23.09.2019].
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Irish Government, 2018. Management Arrangements - Nephrops Scheme for the use of more Selective Fishing Gears. Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine. Available at: https://assets.gov.ie/97183/127b0b4e-d568-490a-be78-ee734d5771a6.pdf [Accessed on 08.01.2021]
Marine Conservation Society, 2019. Marine Protected Areas: South Rigg MCZ. Available at https://www.mcsuk.org/mpa/show-UKMCZ0088 [Accessed on 18.11.2019].
Murray and Cowie, 2011. Plastic contamination in the decapod crustacean Nephrops norvegicus (Linnaeus, 1758). Marine Pollution Bulletin, 62: 6, pp.1207-1217. Available at doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2011.03.032 [Accessed on 19.11.2020].
Oliver, M., McHugh, M., Browne, D., Murphy, S. Cosgrove, R. 2017. Nephrops survivability in the Irish demersal trawl. Irish Sea Fisheries Board (BIM), Fisheries Conservation Report, September 2017. 12 pp. Available at https://www.nwwac.org/_fileupload/Discards/2018/Annex%20Ia%20-%20BIM%20Report%20High%20Survivability%20Nephrops.pdf [Accessed on 08.01.2021].
Palomares, M.L.D. and Pauly, D. (Editors), 2019. SeaLifeBase. Nephrops norvegicus: Norway lobster. Available at https://www.sealifebase.ca/summary/Nephrops-norvegicus.html [Accessed on 08.01.2021].
Wood, H., Eriksson, S., Nordborg, M., and Styf, H., 2015. The effect of environmental stressors on the early development of the Norway lobster Nephrops norvegicus (L.). Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology. 473. pp. 35-42. doi: 10.1016/j.jembe.2015.08.009.
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.
NWWAC. 2017. De minimis proposal for undersized whiting in the TR2 Nephrops trawl fishery (Irish Sea).