Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — West Scotland (Firth of Clyde and Sound of Jura)
Stock detail — 6a, Functional Unit 13
Certification — FIP Stage 2. More info available here
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.
Within this Functional Unit, the Firth of Clyde and the Sound of Jura subareas have different characteristics and different reference points. However, catch data cannot be separated and so only a combined harvest rate is provided. Neither subarea is subject to overfishing or in an overfished state. Management here is not applied at the functional unit level, nor at the subarea level, but catches have been below the scientific advice in recent years. In this area most Nephrops (94%) 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 6% 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, but a small amount of the catch comes from protected areas. 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.
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.
Criterion score: 0 info
Within this Functional Unit, the Firth of Clyde and the Sound of Jura subareas have different characteristics and different reference points. However, catch data cannot be separated and so only a combined harvest rate is provided. Neither subarea is subject to overfishing or in an overfished state.
In the Firth of Clyde, MSY BTrigger is 580 million individuals and the Harvest Rate consistent with FMSY is 15.1%. In the Sound of Jura, MSY BTrigger is 160 million individuals and the Harvest Rate consistent with FMSY is 12%. The combined harvest rate is considered to be more representative for the Firth of Clyde than for the Sound of Jura. It has fluctuated around FMSY (as defined for the Firth of Clyde) since 2009 and in 2018 was below FMSY, at 11.1%. Abundance has been fluctuating well above the MSY Btrigger in both the Firth of Clyde and the Sound of Jura since 1996. In 2019 in the Clyde it is 2,083 million individuals and in Jura it is 318 million.
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 3924 tonnes and 5861 tonnes (3428-5227 tonnes for the Firth of Clyde and 496-634 tonnes for the Sound of Jura). The entire range is considered precautionary when applying the ICES advice rule, and the upper limit is consistent with FMSY. The advice for the Clyde is a 13% decrease on the previous year owing to a decline in abundance, while it is a 3.5% increase for Jura owing to an increase in abundance. In both cases there are also updated data for mean discard rates and weights.
The Clyde functional unit (FU13) comprises of two distinct patches in the Firth of Clyde and the Sound of Jura, to the east and west of the Mull of Kintyre respectively. The hydrography of the two subareas differs, with the Sound of Jura characterised by stronger tidal currents and the Firth of Clyde exhibiting features of a lower energy environment with a shallow entrance sill. Owing to its burrowing behaviour, the distribution of Nephrops is restricted to areas of mud, sandy mud and muddy sand. Within the two distinct patches, these substrates are distributed according to prevailing hydrographic and bathymetric conditions. The available area of suitable sediment is smaller in the Sound of Jura, occupying only the deepest parts of the Sound, while in the Firth of Clyde these sediments predominate.
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 the two most 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. In this particular functional unit (FU), the scientific advice is that additional measures should be implemented to ensure that landings taken in each subarea (the Firth of Clyde and the Sound of Jura) are in line with the advice. These recommendations are 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. Combined catches in the past decade have been frequently been higher than the advised limits, but in 2017 and 2018 they were below the advice, at 81%. Over the last five years the average catch has been 101% of the advice. 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 7% 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).
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, 93.5% of the Nephrops caught in the Firth of Clyde and Sound of Jura were caught by Nephrops trawls (mesh size 70-99mm), and 6.5% in creels. Around 93% was caught by Scotland, and the remainder by other UK fleets.
Demersal otter trawls use smaller mesh-sized nets 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 Nephrops and various whitefish and flatfish species, e.g. cod, haddock, whiting and plaice. In particular, significant amounts of cod and the majority of whiting are caught by Nephrops fisheries in the west of Scotland. West of Scotland whiting remains in a very overfished state, some way below Blim, but the fishing pressure is low and the stock size is gradually increasing. The increase in mesh size from 100 mm to 120 mm, established under the emergency measures in 2010, and the introduction of large square mesh panels in the Nephrops fishery, are likely to have contributed to the observed reductions in fishing mortality. Even so, based on expectations for catches in the Nephrops fisheries, whiting catches in 2020 are projected to be 1,171 tonnes, 441 tonnes of which would be wanted catch and 730 tonnes unwanted catch. The west of Scotland cod stock, on the other hand, is in a seriously depleted state, at just 10% of safe levels, and is still being subjected to overfishing - more from the whitefish fishery than the Nephrops fishery. Cod bycatch has reduced in these fisheries, because of measures such as Real Time Closures and square mesh panels, however the Nephrops fleet is still responsible for 10% of cod discards in this area. A seasonal closure (early spring) in the southwest part of the Firth of Clyde is in place to protect spawning cod, but Nephrops vessels are permitted to fish where there are mud sediments. Further mitigation measures are expected to improve bycatch and discard impacts in the fishery through the GITAG (Gear Innovation and Technology Advisory Group). 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 Scotland, these trials include the Nephrops grid trials, for example, the Faithlie cod avoidance panel is classified as a highly selective gear.
A report by the University of Glasgow showed that elasmobranchs form around 10% of the Nephrops catch, these can include Endangered Threatened and Protected species such as spurdog. There are no data about their discards or survival rates.
Since 1986 there has been a weekend ban on mobile gear in the Firth of Clyde, and vessels over 21m are also banned in the Inshore Clyde at weekends. Creeling activity now takes place quite widely in the northern parts of the Firth of Clyde, operating on some of the same grounds but often taking place during the weekend trawling ban.
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 Clyde and Jura functional unit, three MPAs are covered by fisheries management measures. The MPA which extends onto the main patch of Nephrops habitat is the South Arran NCMPA, within the Firth of Clyde subarea, where a complete ban on demersal vessels greater than 120 gross tonnage has been implemented. Partial closures (i.e. zoned management) for demersal trawlers smaller than this size and creelers are also in place. This removed a large sea area for Nephrops trawlers to operate over and has reportedly increased trawling effort outside of prohibited area, and allowed creelers to move into the areas were trawling was banned. There have been recent reports of increases in creel numbers in this area and this has resulted in gear conflict within the creel sector. For Loch Sween, north of the main habitat area in the Sound of Jura subarea, demersal trawling by vessels is banned. However, for trawlers smaller than 75 gross tonnage, temporal closures are in place over some of the area. For the Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil NCMPA, just north of the main habitat area in Firth of Clyde subarea, demersal trawling by vessels greater than 75 gross tones is banned and the activity of vessels below this is zoned. Creeling activity is also zoned. This is reported to have had little impact on the fishery. A small portion of Nephrops catch comes from areas overlapping MPAs. 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).
Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.Abalone
Clam, Manila (Farmed)
Crab, brown or edible
Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi
Mussel, Chilean (Farmed)
Mussel, mussels (Farmed)
Oyster, Native, oysters (Caught at sea)
Oyster, Native, oysters (Farmed)
Oyster, Pacific, oysters (Caught at sea)
Oyster, Pacific, oysters (Farmed)
Prawn, King (whiteleg), prawns
Prawn, Northern prawns, Northern shrimp
Prawn, Tiger prawns (Farmed)
Scallop, King, scallops
Scallop, Queen, scallops
Squid, Japanese flying
ReferencesEU, 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 13 (West of Scotland, the Firth of Clyde and Sound of Jura). In Report of the ICES Advisory Committee, 2019. ICES Advice 2019, nep.fu.13. https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.advice.4790. Available at http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2019/2019/nep.fu.13.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.