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 Coasts (FU 19)
Picture of Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

There is no concern for the biomass, though it has been decreasing. There is no concern for the fishing pressure on Nephrops in this area.

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, including species such as cod and juvenile fish. The main bycatch in this area are skates and rays and monkfish, whiting, haddock and cod. Some of the skates and rays may be at risk and fishing pressure on haddock and whiting is too high. Cod populations are at very unhealthy levels. However, trials are being conducted to improve the selectivity of the fishery and the Irish fishery is currently conducting gear trials through a Fishery Improvement Project.

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

There is no concern for the biomass, though it has been decreasing. There is no concern for the fishing pressure on Nephrops in this area.

Abundance has been declining since 2011 but is now generally just above MSY Btrigger, except in 2016. The harvest rate have been below FMSY since 2014.


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. There are multiple management measures and a variety of enforcement employed in the fishery.

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), 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 2017 was below that recommended in scientific advice: ICES advised that catches in 2017 should be no more than 838 tonnes, in that year total catches in 2017 were 785 tonnes. There is a high discard ratio of undersized Nephrops in this area.

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. A recent report by the Irish Sea Fisheries Board in this region showed that the main bycatch in this area are skates and rays and monkfish, whiting, haddock and cod.

There are few stock assessments on skates and rays in these areas but some can be endangered, threatened or protected species. The skate and ray species that do have assessments are data-limited species. Spotted rays populations have been increasing over time but have recently decreased; undulate ray populations are ‘depleted’; cuckoo ray populations are increasing; shagreen populations are unknown. In all the skate and ray fisheries, discarding is known to occur but cannot be quantified. Skate 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 arenat implemented over whole functional unit or regional levels.

There are two species of monkfish in the region (white and black-bellied monkfish), the stock status of each monkfish is generally positive. Haddock biomass has declined since 2011 but is still above the reference point but fishing mortality is too high. Whiting populations have declined since 2012 but still above the reference point. Fishing pressure on whiting is slightly too high. However, in this area, cod populations are at very unhealthy 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. 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. 2017. Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in divisions 7.a, 7.g, and 7.j, Functional Unit 19 (Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, eastern part of southwest of Ireland). Published 31 October 2017. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/nep.fu.19.pdf

Enever R., T.L. Catchpole T.L., Ellis. J.R., Grant A. The survival of skates (Rajidae) caught by demersal trawlersfishing 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.

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.

ICES. 2016. Shagreen ray (Leucoraja fullonica) in subareas 6-7 (West of Scotland, southern Celtic Seas, English Channel). Published 11 October 2016. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2016/2016/rjf-celt.pdf

ICES. 2016. Sandy ray (Leucoraja circularis) in subareas 6-7 (West of Scotland, southern Celtic Seas, English Channel). Published 11 October 2016. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2016/2016/rji-celt.pdf

ICES. 2016. Cuckoo ray (Leucoraja naevus) in subareas 6 and 7 and divisions 8.ab and 8.d. Published 11 October 2016. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2016/2016/rjn-678abd.pdf

ICES. 2016. Undulate ray (Raja undulata) in divisions 7.b and 7.j (west and southwest of Ireland). Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2016/2016/rju-7bj.pdf

ICES. 2016. Spotted ray (Raja montagui) in Subarea 6 and divisions 7.b and 7.j (West of Scotland, west and southwest of Ireland). Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2016/2016/rjm-67bj.pdf

ICES. 2018. Black-bellied anglerfish (Lophius budegassa) in divisions 7.b-k, 8.a-b, and 8.d (west and southwest of Ireland, Bay of Biscay). Published 29 June 2018. ttps://doi.org/10.17895/ices.pub.4474. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/ank.27.78abd.pdf.

ICES. 2018. White anglerfish (Lophius piscatorius) in Subarea 7 and in divisions 8.a-b and 8.d (southern Celtic Seas, Bay of Biscay). Published 29 June 2018. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/mon.27.78abd.pdf

ICES 2018. Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) in divisions 7.b-k (southern Celtic Seas and English Channel). Published 29 June 2018. Available at: http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/had.27.7b-k.pdf.

ICES. 2018. Whiting (Merlangius merlangus) in divisions 7.b-c and 7.a-k (southern Celtic Seas and western English Channel). Published 29 June 2018. Available at: http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/whg.27.7b-ce-k.pdf

ICES. 2018. Cod (Gadus morhua) in divisions 7.a-k (western English Channel and southern Celtic Seas). Published 29 June 2018. Available at: http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/cod.27.7e-k.pdf