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 (Ireland SW and SE coast)
Stock detail — 7a, 7g, 7j, Functional Unit 19
Picture of Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi

Sustainability rating three 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.

Off the southwest and southeast coasts of Ireland, fishing pressure on this stock is within sustainable limits, but biomass is declining and below sustainable levels. Management here is not applied at the functional unit level, but catches have been below 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 bycatch included megrim, anglerfish, hake and other demersal species such as whiting and cod. Whiting in 2019 is below BLim, but expected to recover somewhat in 2020. Celtic Sea cod, however, is at dangerously low levels and scientific advice is for 0 catch on this stock. The largest Celtic cod and whiting catches take place in ICES area 7g (FUs 19-22), mostly from demersal whitefish trawls, but Nephrops trawls in The Smalls account for a significant proportion of cod and whiting catches in this area, while the other two Nephrops FUs (Labadie, Jones and Cockburn, and Irish SW and SE coast) are also responsible for some cod catches in 7g.

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.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

This stock is in an overfished state, but is not subject to overfishing.

The harvest rate has been below FMSY (9.3%) since 2014, and in 2018 it was 6.2%. Stock abundance has shown a declining trend, dropping below MSY Btrigger (430 million individuals) in 2016 and again in 2018, when the stock dropped to a low of 176 million individuals. In 2019 there was an improvement to 386 million - but it is the second lowest on record and below MSY BTrigger.

ICES advises that when the EU multiannual plan (MAP) for Western waters and adjacent waters is applied, catches in 2020 that correspond to the F ranges in the MAP are between 749 tonnes and 839 tonnes. The entire range is considered precautionary when applying the ICES advice rule. The upper limit is in line with a reduction in FMSY that corresponds to the reduction in abundance. This advice is almost a four-fold increase on the advice for 2019 owing to the increase in abundance.

Estimates for abundance are considered accurate, but estimates for harvest rates are affected by uncertainty over weight estimates and the highly variable discard rates. This FU consists of a number of discrete patches of Nephrops, and population dynamics between the patches are not well understood.


Criterion score: 0.5 info

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, the stock is at risk of overfishing. The stock is currently in an overfished state, but fishing pressure is within sustainable limits. Catches have been below the 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. 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. Vessels are free to move between grounds, allowing effort to develop on some grounds in a largely uncontrolled way and result in overfishing. Therefore, scientists have repeatedly advised over the years that management should be implemented at the functional unit level, to better protect the Nephrops. This should provide the controls to ensure that catch opportunities and effort are compatible and in line with the scale of the resources in each of the stocks: functional unit TAC management is only one way of managing the fisheries and other approaches may also deliver the required safeguards. This advice is not being followed.

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. However, a single TAC covers the whole of ICES Subarea 7 (FUs 14-17 and 19-22). Catches in Subarea 7 overall have been less than the TAC in recent years, as there has been a general decline in trawling fishing effort for Norway lobster. Catches in FU 19 over the last 5 years have averaged 80% of the catch advice. In recent years, several newer vessels specializing in Nephrops fishing have participated in this fishery. These vessels target Nephrops on several other grounds within the TAC area and move around to optimize catch rates. There are concerns that effort limits or other limits on catch in other FUs could displace effort into this one.

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. Observations from the 2016-2018 fishery indicate that discarding above the minimum conservation reference size (MCRS) continues and has not changed markedly. On average, 38.5% (by number, 25% by weight) of the catch between 2016 and 2018 was unwanted catch. In this FU vessels tend to be small with limited space and crew, and on-board tailing (keeping only the tail) of the catch is not as prevalent as in other FUs around Ireland. As a result, the proportion of discarded Nephrops in FU 19 is high relative to other areas. 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.

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: 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. In 2018, almost 100% of the catch was by otter trawl, nearly all by the Republic of Ireland. A very small amount is caught by UK and French fleets.

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. There has been a trend for Irish vessels (>18 m) to switch to multi (quad) rig trawls. Provisional data suggest a ~30% increase in Nephrops catch rates and a reduction in fish bycatch of ~30% due to the lower headline height. Nephrops fisheries in this area are fairly mixed, also catching megrim, anglerfish and other demersal species. There are also some catches of hake, and in the offshore parts of the area. The Nephrops grounds in FU19 coincide with an important nursery area for juvenile hake and anglerfish among other species. Whiting in 2019 is below BLim, but expected to recover somewhat in 2020. Celtic Sea cod, however, is at dangerously low levels and scientific advice is for 0 catch on this stock. Recent ICES reports (2019) indicate that the largest Celtic cod and whiting catches take place in ICES area 7g (FUs 19-22), mostly from demersal whitefish trawls. More detailed data from 2015 indicates that Nephrops trawls in The Smalls account for a significant proportion of cod and whiting catches in this area, while the other two Nephrops FUs (Labadie, Jones and Cockburn, and Irish SW and SE coast) are also responsible for some cod catches in 7g. This FU also overlaps with the Irish Sea cod stock, which is also depleted, but the majority of Irish cod catches are from further north in the Irish Sea. It does not overlap with the severely depleted Irish Sea whiting stock.

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. Parts of 7f and g (30E4, 31E4, 32E3) are closed to fishing in February and March each year to limit cod catches during spawning season.

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.

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).


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.a, 7.g, and 7.j, Functional Unit 19 (Irish Sea, Celtic Sea, eastern part of southwest of Ireland). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, nep.fu.19. https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.4795. Available at http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2019/2019/nep.fu.19.pdf [Accessed on 15.11.2019].

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 15.11.2019].

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.

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.