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 (Norwegian Deep)
Stock detail — 4a, Functional Unit 32
Picture of Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

Updated: July 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 the Norwegian Deep, stock size is uncertain, but there is nothing to indicate concern. Fishing pressure is within sustainable limits. Management measures here are at the level of this functional unit, and catches have been in line with advice. However, management of this stock is not well informed as there are no reference points for the stock size or fishing pressure. 42% of the catch is from trawling and 58% from creels (pots). Creeling is a more sustainable method, with low levels of bycatch and low impact on the seabed. The trawling in this fishery uses a larger mesh size, reducing the amount of bycatch, although there are still habitat impacts from trawling.


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: 0.5 info

Stock Area

North Sea (Norwegian Deep)

Stock information

The state of this stock is unknown and reference points for biomass and fishing mortality have not been defined. Stock status is uncertain, but there is nothing to indicate concern, although recent low catches of small Nephrops indicate poor recruitment. Fishing pressure is within sustainable limits.

Low catches of small Nephrops in recent years indicate low recruitment to the stock, and while data up to 2013 indicated that the stock was not overexploited, more recent data are less conclusive. In the absence of a full analytical assessment, ICES bases its advice for Norway lobster on average landings, unless this is considered to be not precautionary. Maximum sustainable yield (MSY) harvest rates estimated for other FUs vary between 7.5% and 16%. ICES uses the lower boundary as an upper limit for advice for data limited Norway lobster stocks such as this one, making the FMSY proxy 7.5%. The assumed density for this stock is 0.1 individuals per sq. metre. Average landings from 2008-2017 correspond to a harvest rate (HR) of 1% - below the FMSY proxy. ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, catches in each of the years 2019 and 2020 should be no more than 397 tonnes, corresponding to an HR of 1.23%.

A Total Allowable Catch (TAC) is set for this Functional Unit, unlike in other FUs. Catches have been well below TACs, and below advised catches, but the TACs themselves have regularly been set higher than the advice.


Criterion score: 0.5 info

ICES is not aware of any agreed precautionary management plan for Norway lobster in this area. In contrast to the other functional units, management is implemented at the functional unit level for FU 32. While TACs have been set above scientific advice, catches have consistently been below it, indicating that management is sufficient to prevent overexploitation of the stock. However, management of this stock is not well informed as there are no reference points for the stock size or fishing pressure.

Unlike the other Nephrops function units, this one has specific management measures, including a Total Allowable Catch. Measures are agreed between EU and Norway

This stock is covered by the EU’s North Sea Multi Annual management Plan (MAP), covering eleven FUs: 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 32, 33 and 34. 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.

For the stock in FU32 it is not possible to estimate abundance levels or FMSY ranges, therefore ICES continues to give advice based on the ICES precautionary approach. EU fisheries have a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) in this Functional Unit, agreed between the EU and Norway, but no quota restriction applies to the Norwegian fishery. Around 95% of the EU quota is assigned to Denmark, and around 5% to the UK. EU catches have been well below TACs, and below advised catches, but the TACs themselves have regularly been set higher than the advice.

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) 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. There are a number of exemptions that apply to Nephrops, including de minimis exemptions of up to 6% in some fisheries and full exemptions in fisheries where there is high survivability. MCRS for Nephrops in the North Sea is 25 mm carapace length (32mm for Denmark, Sweden and Norway). The ban would be expected to increase the number of below MCRS individuals and unwanted adults being landed, but throughout EU waters compliance with this regulation is generally poor and there is often no change in landings. It has been calculated that the proportion of catch of individuals below the MCRS might always be less than 6%, explaining this anomaly but not explaining the lack of landings of unwanted adults.

In Norway, only discarding of Nephrops inside the Skagerrak is banned, so this FU is exempt. Dead discards are assumed to be 0 for the Norwegian fishery because it is mainly a coastal trap fishery (less than 10% trawl landings), with high survival of discarded Nephrops. Danish discards are low (1-5%) due to the legislated 120 mm mesh size.

Nephrops in Norwegian waters are caught in mixed trawl fisheries and prawn fisheries, mainly by Norwegian and Danish fleets. Norwegian fisheries management is based on the Marine Resources Act. As well as the TAC, management measures include: rebuilding plans for overfished species, protection of spawning grounds and juveniles, and are area closures to protect sensitive environments. The minimum mesh sizes of the mixed trawls and in the prawn fishery is 120mm. When fishing for shrimps, Nephrops must not exceed 50% of the total weight caught. Much of the management measures applied to the whitefish mixed fishery were directed at protecting cod stocks. The Cod Management Plan mandated effort limits in this fishery, which likely afforded some protection to the Nephrops stocks until 2017, when the days-at-sea restrictions were repealed.

Enforcement is conducted by the Norwegian Coast Guard and EU Fisheries Inspection. The fleet are required to report their catch through Electronic Reporting Systems (ERS), which provides real-time data to the Directorate of Fisheries and landings must be reported six hours in advance of landing to allow sales inspectors an opportunity to check the catch. In Norway, Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS) are required for all vessels above 24 m in length. Nephrops stocks are assessed biennially. There is no formal observer programme and interactions with Endangered, Threatened and Protected species go unrecorded. The Norwegian trap fishery comprises small vessels, below the size at which logbooks are mandatory. Observer coverage and sampling is low in the Danish fleet.

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: 0.5 info

Of the 2017 catch, 42% was from trawling and 58% from creels. Catches are mainly by Norway and Denmark. Minimum mesh size is 120mm, meaning that Nephrops are usually caught as part of the mixed trawl fishery or in the shrimp fishery, where Nephrops are caught as bycatch. There is no directed trawl fishery for Nephrops in this functional unit. Bycatches of Nephrops in these fisheries have declined since the shrimp and mixed fisheries have declined. Because of this, the Norwegian commercial fishery has changed to a coastal trap fishery. Discarded Nephrops from traps have high survivorship.

There is no discard ban in the Norwegian fishery, and the Danish fishery has very low discards (1-5%). This species is caught as part of a mixed demersal fishery, so bycatch can include cod, haddock, whiting, saithe, plaice and sole. In the North Sea, plaice and saithe are in a good state and fishing pressure within sustainable levels. Haddock and sole are in a good state, but fishing pressure is too high. Whiting is slightly below sustainable levels, and fishing pressure is too high. Cod is in a very poor state, and fishing pressure is too high. Recent measures to reduce whitefish bycatch (e.g. cod) required vessels in the northern North Sea using mesh size of below 100mm to employ highly selective gears (HSG), e.g. Gamrie Bay Trawl or Faithlie Cod Avoidance Panel. In 2012 most vessels operating in the northern North Sea and the Farn Deeps fished exclusively with specified highly selective gears (reducing cod catches by 60% by weight) or had installed 200 mm square mesh panels.

Endangered, threatened and protected species caught in the catch can include some skates, rays and sharks. These species are relatively 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. Those 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.

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 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, species composition, and biodiversity of the burrowed mud community. In the Northern North Sea and Skagerrak, there is a “high sub-surface footprint”, which is “almost exclusively” caused by “high fishing intensities with bottom trawls targeting Nephrops and mixed fish which have a significant sub-surface impact”.

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).


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