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 (Porcupine Bank)
Stock detail — 7b-c, 7j-k, Functional Unit 16
Picture of Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

Updated: November 2019.

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. Where the fishery overlaps with a Marine Protected Area that has been designated to protect seabed features, this concern is increased. In addition, management generally isn’t following scientific advice - with measures being across a wide area, rather than on a stock-by-stock basis, allowing catches are to be above recommended levels in some places.

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.

Biology

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: 0.25 info

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. Nephrops norvegicus has a low vulnerability to fishing pressure.

This is a data limited stock, and there are no reference points for stock abundance. Abundance is estimated to have decreased from its historical high in 2018 (1,117 million individuals) to 1,010 million individuals in 2019. The harvest rate has decreased from a historical high of 10% in 2017 to 5.9% in 2018 - 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 2020 that correspond to the F ranges in the MAP are between 2,127 tonnes and 2,637 tonnes. The entire range is considered precautionary when applying the ICES advice rule and the upper limit is equivalent to FMSY. This is similar to last year’s advice, owing to a combination of the reduction in the stock abundance and the increase in the mean weights of the landings.

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 FU16 since 2012 (except in 2015) with high precision, but the time series is too short to provide an MSY Btrigger.

Management

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 stock does not seem to be in an overfished state, and fishing pressure is below sustainable limits. 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 came into force for Nephrops fisheries in the 80-99 mm trawl fisheries in 2016, meaning that below Minimum Conservation Reference Size (MCRS - 25mm carapace length) individuals, as well as adults that are unwanted (e.g. over-quota) must be landed rather than discarded at sea. As of January 2019, the discard ban applies to all species subject to catch limits. Irish discard survival experiments indicate that the trawl discard survival may be up to 64%. Vessels using mesh size over 100mm or highly selective gear have a survivability exemption from the Landings Obligation. 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.

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.


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: 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. In 2018, 97% (2,671 tonnes) of the Nephrops catch in Porcupine Bank was by otter trawl. The majority of catches were by Ireland, with some by the UK, Spain and France. 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).

References

Aristegui, M., O'Brien, S., Tully, D., Galligan, S., McCorriston, P., Bentley, K. and Lordan, C., 2019. Porcupine Bank Nephrops Grounds (FU16) 2019 UWTV Survey Report and catch scenarios for 2020. Marine Institute UWTV Survey report. Available at https://oar.marine.ie/bitstream/handle/10793/1431/Survey%20Report%20Porcupine%20UWTV%202019.pdf [Accessed on 13.11.2019].

EU, 2018. Commission Delegated Regulation (EU) 2018/2034 of 18 October 2018 establishing a discard plan for certain demersal fisheries in North-Western waters for the period 2019-2021. Available at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/EN/TXT/?uri=uriserv:OJ.L_.2018.327.01.0008.01.ENG [Accessed on 13.11.2019].

EU, 2019. Regulation (EU) 2019/1241 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 20 June 2019 on the conservation of fisheries resources and the protection of marine ecosystems through technical measures. Available at https://eur-lex.europa.eu/legal-content/en/TXT/?uri=CELEX:32019R1241#ntr1-L_2019198EN.01015901-E0001 [Accessed on 13.11.2019].

Guitton J., Ulrich, C., Vermard Y., Afonso P., Andonegi E., Argyrou I., Calderwood J., Fauconnet L., Quetglas A., Morato T., Prellezo R., Robert M., Savina-Rolland M., Triantaphyllidis G., Vaz S., 2017. DiscardLess Atlas: Cod-Celtic sea. Available at http://www.discardless.eu/atlas [Accessed on 15.11.2019].

Guitton J., Ulrich, C., Vermard Y., Afonso P., Andonegi E., Argyrou I., Calderwood J., Fauconnet L., Quetglas A., Morato T., Prellezo R., Robert M., Savina-Rolland M., Triantaphyllidis G., Vaz S., 2017. DiscardLess Atlas: Whiting-Celtic Sea and West of Scotland. Available at http://www.discardless.eu/atlas [Accessed on 15.11.2019].

ICES. 2019. EU request to provide likely catches in 2020 of specific bycatch / non-targeted stocks that have zero catch advice (cod in divisions 7.e-k and 6.a and in Subdivision 21, whiting in divisions 6.a and 7.a, and plaice in divisions 7.h and 7.j-k). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, sr.2019.23, https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.5646. Available at http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2019/Special_Requests/eu.2019.23.pdf [Accessed on 15.11.2019].

ICES. 2019. Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in divisions 7.b-c and 7.j-k, Functional Unit 16 (west and southwest of Ireland, Porcupine Bank). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, nep.fu.16. https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.4793. Available at http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2019/2019/nep.fu.16.pdf [Accessed on 13.11.2019].

ICES. 2019. Working Group for the Celtic Seas Ecoregion (WGCSE). ICES Scientific Reports. 1:29. 1587 pp. http://doi.org/10.17895/ices.pub.4982. Available at http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Expert%20Group%20Report/Fisheries%20Resources%20Steering%20Group/2019/WGCSE/01_WGCSE_2019.pdf [Accessed on 13.11.2019].

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 13.11.2019].

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).

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.