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 — North Sea (Farn Deeps)
Stock detail — 4b (Management Area I: FU 6)
Picture of Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

The latest stock assessment for nephrops in this area indicates that the fishing mortality has reduced and overfishing is no longer occurring, and the biomass is no longer likely to be overfished. Recovery measures have been in place since march 2016 which include a series of technical measures to reduce effort in the functional unit with the aim of reducing fishing mortality to the level associated with the maximum sustainable yield. Measures were not sufficient to restrict catches in 2016 and 2017 to advised levels and at the time of assessment, was too soon to establish if additional measures had reduced catches in line with the scientific advice in 2018. Whilst the recent increase in biomass is welcome, it is not clear how much can be attributed to the recent technical measures. It will be important to continuously monitor the effectiveness of the technical measures to ensure catches and mortality remain at advised levels. Bycatch of juveniles of other species can be high in these small mesh trawl fisheries despite the use of selective gear, and there are potential impacts to sea floor communities from bottom trawling in soft sediment. Parts of the fishery operates in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) which are in need of habitat protection from damaging activities.


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

North Sea (Farn Deeps)

Stock information

The latest stock assessment for nephrops in this functional unit was undertaken in 2018 and indicated that the fishing mortality had finally reduced to just below the maximum sustainable yield and was no longer subject to overfishing. Biomass was also above the lower biomass limit (MSYBtrigger) and was therefore not likely to be in an overfished state. Recovery measures have been in place since march 2016 which include a series of technical measures to reduce effort in the functional unit with the aim of reducing fishing mortality to MSY. Whilst measures have reportedly reduced effort, the measures thus far haven’t reduced catches sufficiently in either 2016 or 2017. In 2017, the total catch was 1882tonnes, significantly above the recommended wanted catch of 1020t.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

There is a single total allowable catch (TAC) for all of ICES Subarea IV (The North Sea). Nephrops stock management is based on a system of management units (A-R), which broadly coincide with ICES areas, and functional units (FU)(1-33), which cover the distribution of the species, particularly in relation to suitable habitat types. The overriding management consideration for these stocks is that management should be at the functional unit (FU) rather than the ICES subarea level. Management at the functional unit level 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 defined by the functional units. Functional unit TAC management is therefore only one way of managing the fisheries and other approaches may also deliver the required safeguards. Current management of Nephrops in Subarea IV (both in terms of TACs and effort) does not provide adequate safeguards to ensure that local effort is sufficiently limited to avoid depletion of resources in functional units. In the current situation, vessels are free to move between grounds, allowing effort to develop on some grounds in a largely uncontrolled way and this has historically resulted in inappropriate harvest rates from some parts. This was a particular problem in the Farn Deeps where increased vessel activity from other parts of the UK occurred, resulting in overfishing.

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.

Since April 2016 additional management measure have been adopted with the aim of reducing fishing mortality to achieve Fmsy (fishing mortality at Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY) levels) for the Farn Deeps by 2017. These measures include: a minimum mesh size of 90mm using single twine of 5 mm; only single-rig vessels of 350 kW (476 hp) or less will be permitted to fish within 12 NM of the coast; Multi-rig vessels (vessels with three or more rigs) will be prohibited from operating within the Farn Deeps. Twin rig vessels will be permitted to operate outside 12 NM; No vessel will be permitted to use gear with more than one codend per rig. Whilst these measures go some way to introducing management at the FU as recommended by ICES, they have not yet effectively reduced catches in line with scientific advice and fishing mortality is still far above MSY and it is unclear whether the recent improvement in biomass is related to the recovery measures or to some external environmental fluctuations. Additional measure have been proposed for 2018 to prevent unexpected late season catches.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Nephrops in FU 6 are almost entirely taken in bottom trawl fisheries using small meshes (70-99 mm). Increases in the numbers of vessels using twin-rig and multi-rig gears observed in this area are likely to have increased the effective fishing power per kW hour, although as part of the recent management measures, twin-rig trawling has been restricted from use in As of 2012, all EU, Faroese and Norwegian vessels which exceed 12m overall length must be fitted with a Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), a form of satellite tracking using transmitters on board fishing vessels to monitor fishing activity. The system is a legal requirement under EC Regulation 2244/2003 and Scottish Statutory Instrument (SI) 392/2004. Discarding of Nephrops is 12% of total catch. A landing obligation for Nephrops smaller than the minimum conservation size has been in place since 2016, but discarding above this size was still observed in 2016.

Since 2010 a number of vessels are reported to be using large square-meshed panels (of up to 160 mm) and in 2012, most vessels operating in Division IVa and the Farn Deeps fished exclusively with specified highly selective gears (that have been shown to reduce cod catches by 60% by weight).

Nephrops are primarily found in soft mud habitats which are also associated other burrowing megafauna 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 seapens which are vulnerable to interactions with bottom towed fishing gear. Disturbance from trawl gear on the seabed, especially over long periods of time, is likely to affect the structure of the burrowed mud community and impact on species composition and biodiversity.

There are Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to protect seabed features within the area of this assessment and some components of this fishery may be fishing in these areas. If appropriate management measures are not in place to protect these features, or, an appropriate impact or risk assessment of the activity has not been undertaken to indicate the commercial fishing activity does not damage the integrity of the site, MCS considers these fishing activities as default red rated.


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 10.11.17].

ICES, 2017. ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort: Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in Division 4.b, Functional Unit 6 (central North Sea, Farn Deeps). Available at http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/nep.fu.6.pdf [Accessed 12.12.17].

ICES, 2018. ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort: Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in Division 4.b, Functional Unit 6 (central North Sea, Farn Deeps). Available at http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/nep.fu.6.pdf [Accessed 20.11.18].http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/nep.fu.6.pdf