Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi

Nephrops norvegicus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Pot or creel
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — West Scotland (South Minch)
Stock detail — 6a, Functional Unit 12
Certification — FIP Stage 2. More info available here
Picture of Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi

Sustainability rating two 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 South Minch, the stock is not subject to overfishing, and is not in an overfished state. Management here is not applied at the functional unit level, but catches have been below the scientific advice in recent years. In this area most Nephrops (69%) are by trawls using a smaller mesh size (80-99mm), which has a higher risk of bycatch than creeling, especially whiting and cod. Whiting off the west of Scotland is in a poor state, below Blim, but fishing pressure has been reduced and it is gradually recovering. Most catches of this whiting stock are by the Nephrops trawl fishery. West of Scotland cod is also bycatch in west of Scotland Nephrops trawl fisheries, and is in a very depleted state, at just 10% of sustainable levels. The demersal finfish fishery is responsible for much higher levels of cod bycatch than the Nephrops fisheries.

Creeling (around 28% of catches) has a much lower bycatch risk, and unwanted or undersized animals caught in pots are much more likely to survive being returned to the sea. There are risks of ghost fishing from lost pots and entanglement from creels, but there are few data to indicate how much of a concern this is. Impact on the seabed from pots is minimal.

This Functional Unit overlaps with a number of MPAs, and more than 20% of catches are thought to come from those MPAs. A number of management measures are in place, e.g. zoning or banning of trawling, and zoning of creeling, to mitigate impacts on the protected features. MCS has applied the MPA scoring to both ratings for South Minch.


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

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

The harvest rate has been below FMSY (11.7%) since 2013 and in 2018 was at its lowest value, at 4.8%. The stock abundance has generally fluctuated some way above MSY Btrigger (1,020 million individuals) and in 2019 was 2,362 million individuals.

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 5,671 tonnes and 7,134 tonnes. The entire range is considered precautionary when applying the ICES advice rule and the upper limit is in line with FMSY. This is a 22% increase on advice for 2019 because the stock abundance has increased. There have also been updates to mean discard rates and weights.

While underwater TV surveys have provided fairly precise estimates of abundance since 1995, some patches of muddy sediment supporting Nephrops populations in the inshore areas and sea lochs of FU 12 are not routinely surveyed. These areas are not included in the estimate of abundance, so it is likely to be a slight underestimate. The inclusion of vessels smaller than 15 m would likely increase the fished area in some of the inshore locations and it is known that most of the sea lochs have areas of mud substrate and are typically fished by creel boats. In recent years, limited TV surveys have taken place in some of the sea lochs and attempts are being made to utilise these data to improve estimates of mud area and Nephrops abundance in the South Minch.


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 not currently subject to overfishing, nor is it in an overfished state. 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 6 (FUs 11-13). Catches in Subarea 6 overall have been less than the TAC in recent years, as there has been a general decline in trawling fishing effort for Norway lobster. Total catch in FU12 has averaged 65% of the advised limit over the past 5 years. In 2018, there was a large reduction in landings and effort in all three functional units on the west coast. This reduction was partly explained by the migration of the west coast fleet to the east coast to take advantage of improved Nephrops fishing opportunities in the northern North Sea. Anecdotal information from the fishing industry suggests that an additional factor contributing to the migration of the fishing fleet was an issue with foreign crew being unable to work in the inshore grounds of the west coast therefore moved to the offshore grounds of the east coast.

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, but creel fisheries are exempt from the landing obligation due to high survivability of discards. Demersal trawlers using a mesh size of 80mm-110mm and within 12 miles of shore are also exempt. Scottish discard survival experiments indicate that the trawl discard survival may be greater than 50%. As a result, an exemption from the landing obligation based on high survivability has been granted by the European Commission. Vessels using mesh size over 100mm or highly selective gear also have a survivability exemption. Observations from the 2016-2018 fishery indicate that some discarding above the minimum conservation reference size (MCRS) continues. Over the past 5 years, discards have averaged 5% of the total catch by weight.

Scotland has recently established a network of regional Inshore Fisheries Groups (rIFGs), non-statutory bodies that aim to improve the management of Scotland’s inshore fisheries out to six nautical miles, and to give commercial inshore fishermen a strong voice in wider marine management developments. Although no IFG proposals specific to the management of Nephrops fisheries have yet been adopted, some of the IFG management plans for the Scottish West Coast include spatial management of Nephrops fisheries and the introduction of creel limits. Overall effort by the creel fleet in terms of creel numbers is not known, and measures to control numbers are not in place. There is a need to ensure that the combined effort from all forms of fishing is taken into account when managing this stock.

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 is a Fishery Improvement Project in place for this functional unit (more information here). It is currently in the early stages (Stage 2) and aims to have the fishery in a position to be certified sustainable by April 2024.

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 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 in South Minch, 69% of landings were caught by the directed Nephrops fishery, 28% by creel, and the remainder by the mixed Nephrops and demersal fishery. Around 97% was caught by Scotland, with the remainder by other UK fleets and the Republic of Ireland.

Pots or creels are a much more selective method of fishing than trawls as immature or egg-carrying animals can be returned to the sea alive. Skippers generally aim for where Nephrops populations are likely to be highest, so the bycatch that is landed from creel fisheries is generally low and includes whelks and hermit crabs. The discarded catch is small (around 6% of total catch) and usually includes brown crab, velvet crab and lobster, which are likely to survive discarding.

Of concern in the creel fishery is the potential for entangling whales in Scottish waters. Over half of all baleen whales that have stranded may have died due to entanglement. Creel ropes were attributed to the fishing gear involved in several instances. The creeling fishery may also impact humpback whale, but with a lack of information and no requirement to report entanglements, the true number of entanglements is unknown.

The impact of creels on the seabed is likely to be low: they are normally set on a mud surface but can sometimes impact sessile species - although the impact of creels on sea pens is considered minimal. To mitigate their impact, under the National Marine Planning process, habitats are being mapped in Scottish waters. Burrowed mud habitat is mapped as a priority marine feature, as per OSPAR Convention legislation.

There is a potential for ghost fishing as an estimated 7-8% of creels that are fished may be lost per year.

Creeling produces a larger, higher quality product. Landing live ‘tubed’ prawns is now common in the creel sector on the northeast coast and throughout the west coast of Scotland.

In February 2016, phase 1 of the fisheries management measures for inshore MPAs in Scottish waters came into force. Although not specific to the management of the Nephrops fishery, they influence spatial patterns of fishing for Nephrops where controls on the two main gear types, demersal trawls and creels are implemented on Nephrops habitat. Within the South Minch functional unit, seven MPAs are covered by fisheries management measures. MPAs on the main areas of Nephrops habitat include the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura NCMPA, where demersal trawling is banned in some areas (i.e. zoned), and seasonal closures implemented in others; Loch Sunart NCMPA/SAC, where demersal trawling is banned and creeling is zoned; the East of Mingulay SAC, where demersal trawling is banned and creeling is zoned; and the Trenish Isles SAC, where demersal trawling banned. Loch Duich, Long and Alsh NCMPA/SAC covers some patches of muddy sediment, where demersal trawling is banned or temporally closed in other areas that extend beyond the MPA onto muddy sediment. Other areas include the Loch Creran SAC/NCMPA, where demersal trawling is banned and creeling is zoned, and the Firth of Lorn SAC, which has the same management as the Loch Sunart to the Sound of Jura NCMPA. For the Firth of Lorn and Loch Creran, management was in place prior to 2016. An additional NCMPA, at Loch Carron, was designated using emergency powers in 2017. Given the important role that Marine Protected Areas (including NCMPAs and SACs) 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].

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 Division 6.a, Functional Unit 12 (West of Scotland, South Minch). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, nep.fu.12, https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.4789. Available at http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2019/2019/nep.fu.12.pdf [Accessed on 19.11.2019].

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].

Marine Scotland. 2018. Implementation of the Demersal Landing Obligation in 2018: Marine Scotland Guidance for Scottish Fishing Vessels. Available at: http://www.gov.scot/Topics/marine/Sea-Fisheries/discards/demersal/DemersalLandingObligation-GuidancetoSkippers.

Rihan, D. 2018. Research for PECH Committee - landing obligation and choke species in multi-species and mixed fisheries - the North Western Waters. European Parliament, Policy Department for Structural and Cohesion Policies, Brussels.

Milligan, R.J., Neil, D.M., and Albalat, A. (2013) Scottish Nephrops Survey Phase III: Evaluation of Measures for Reducing Bycatch and Discards in a Nephrops Fishery. Project Report. University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK.

Alexander, K.A. Heymans, J.J., Magill, S., Tomczak, M.T., Holmes, S.J., Wilding, T.A. 2015. Investigating the recent decline in gadoid stocks in the west of Scotland shelf ecosystem using a food web model, ICES Journal of Marine Science, 72 (2) pp 436-449. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1093/icesjms/fsu149.

Lamb, S. 2011. Summary of results and findings of the Orkney shellfish research study 2010/11. Part funded by EU Fisheries Fund and Orkney Island Council.

Williams, C., and Carpenter, G. 2016. NEF working paper: The Scottish Nephrops fishery: Applying social, economic, and environmental criteria.

Russell, J., Mardle, S. 2017. Analysis of Nephrops industry in Scotland. Edinburgh, UK.