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
Stock detail — Celtic Sea, the Smalls (Management Area M, FU 22)
Picture of Lobster, Norway, Langoustine, Dublin Bay prawn or scampi

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

The nephrop populations in this area at healthy levels but fishing mortality is at very unsafe levels.

Nephrops fisheries are managed mainly using area restrictions, a total allowable catch, effort restrictions and technical measures. However, these areas are often too large to manage Nephrops effectively. This has historically resulted in fishing vessels concentrating their effort on favoured fishing grounds in a largely uncontrolled way, leading to overfishing and depletion of some Nephrops populations in the past, like in the Farn Deeps. Therefore, scientists advise that management should be implemented at the functional unit (FU) level.

Nephrops are caught predominantly by bottom trawling. Trawling for nephrops results is associated with large quantities of bycatch. This is a concern because cod in this area have a very poor stock status and fishing mortality on the stock is too high. Bycatch and discarding can vary as nearly all of the French fleet, and some of the Irish fleet have modified their fishing gear to reduce bycatch and discards. The Irish Nephrops trawl fishery discard around 38% of the total catch consisting mainly of small Nephrops, whiting, haddock, and dogfish.

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 (80 mm is the mesh size in general use) 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: 0.75 info

Stock Area

Celtic Sea and West of Scotland

Stock information

The nephrop populations in this area are well above safe levels but fishing mortality is at very unsafe levels.

Abundance is well above (above 1.4 times Btrigger) MSYBtrigger, except for in 2016. The harvest rate is well above FMSY and there is an increasing trend.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

There is currently no management plan in this area. There are multiple management measures and a variety of enforcement is employed in the fishery. The main management measures include: effort (kw-days), mesh size and catch composition (as per the EU long-term cod management plan. These measures are subject to change under the new Multi-Annual Plan due in mid-2018. The Celtic Sea and West of Scotland mandate the EU MLS for Nephrops of 25mm carapace length. However, the French Producers’ Organisations require a larger MCRS of 35 mm for the French trawlers. As of 2018, beam trawls and bottom trawls of mesh size 80mm and 70mm mesh size respectively, must land all catches of Nephrops, cod, haddock, whiting, saithe, northern prawns, and potentially place and hake in the North Sea, the West of Scotland and the Irish Sea. Additionally, the French fleet have used a 100 mm mesh size in the codend since January 2000. Fish that are below minimum size can be sold, but not for human consumption.

Whilst management measures exist in the fishery, quota management may not be wholly effective: quota is not applied at the functional unit level and therefore, the stock is at risk of overfishing. 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, previously resulting in overfishing. Scientists advice that TACs should be allocated at a functional unit level, so that they are appropriate for the Nephrops in each functional unit.

The quota used in this area in 2017 was above that recommended by scientific advice: ICES advised that catches in 2017 should be no more than 2063 tonnes, in that year total catches in 2017 were 3792 tonnes. There is a high discard ratio of undersized Nephrops in this area.

The cod long-term plan (EC 1342/2008) allows for exemptions on effort restrictions which makes it difficult to monitor effort in the area impacted.

The countries surrounding the fishery are required to enforce fisheries laws. Enforcement duties include at-sea, areal, dockside, processing plant and sales inspections. Compliance rates are unknown but reporting has likely improved since buyers and sellers regulations, electronic logbooks and electronic vessel monitoring (VMS) (for vessels over 12m), was implemented.

In conclusion, 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. Catches in 2017 were above that recommended in scientific advice.

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. Nephrops are predominantly caught using demersal trawls.

Demersal otter trawls use small mesh-sized nets to catch Nephrops and therefore, it can be an unselective fishing gear, catching and discarding a relatively high amount of undersized Nephrops. In functional units 20-22, these species likely include haddock, plaice, skates and rays, whiting, cod and sole. Generally throughout the fleets, the main discarded species in this fishery are haddock, plaice and whiting. The stock status for cod in this area is poor: the biomass is very low and the fishing mortality is too high. Haddock biomass has been declining since 2011, but are above the reference point. However fishing mortality for haddock in this area is currently too high. Similarly, whiting biomass has been decreasing but is at a sufficient level, however, fishing mortality has been increasing and needs to be reduced slightly. The stock status for plaice is healthy, whilst dogfish are a data-limited species, their population has been increasing.

However, bycatch and discarding can vary as nearly all of the French fleet, and some of the Irish fleet have adopted over 100mm mesh in the codend. Observer data have shown that the Irish Nephrops trawl fleet discard around 38% of the total catch by weight, where the majority of these discards are small whole Nephrops, followed by whiting, haddock, and dogfish. Haddock and whiting are the main choke species in this fishery.

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 arenat implemented over whole functional unit or regional levels. FU 20-22 have adopted the use of 120mm square mesh panels. Other measures include modifications to the codends and implementation of coverless trawls. 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 the Irish Sea, these trails include the Irish Sea selectivity trials.

The Marine Institute report on the 2017 assessment in the “Smalls” showed that only one species of sea-pen Virgilaria mirabilis was recorded and trawl marks were observed at 59% of the stations surveyed.

There are a number of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in this Functional Unit which are in need of protection from damaging activities. The nephrops fishery is known to overlap with parts of these MPAs, but it is not clear by how much. For these components, MCS considers bottom trawling in MPAs as a default red rating unless there is evidence (such as an environmental impact assessment (EIA)) indicating the activity does not damage the integrity of the site.


ICES. 2017. Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in divisions 7.g and 7.f, Functional Unit 22 (Celtic Sea, Bristol Channel). Published 31 October 2017. Available at: http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/nep.fu.22.pdf

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.

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.

ICES. 2018. Stock Annex: Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus) in divisions 7.g and 7.f, Functional Unit 22 (Celtic Sea, Bristol Channel). Available at: http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Stock%20Annexes/2018/nep.fu.22_SA.pdf

ICES. 2018. Cod (Gadus morhua) in divisions 7.a-k (western English Channel and southern Celtic Seas). Published 29 June 2018. Available at: http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/cod.27.7e-k.pdf

ICES.2018. Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus) in divisions 7.b-k (southern Celtic Seas and English Channel). Published 29 June 2018. Available at: http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/had.27.7b-k.pdf

ICES. 2018. Whiting (Merlangius merlangus) in divisions 7.b-c and 7.a-k (southern Celtic Seas and western English Channel). Published 29 June 2018. Available at: http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/whg.27.7b-ce-k.pdf.

ICES. 2018. Plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) in divisions 7.f and 7.g (Bristol Channel, Celtic Sea). Published 29 June 2018. Available at: http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/ple.27.7fg.pdf

ICES. 2017. Lesser-spotted dogfish (Scyliorhinus canicula) in Subarea 6 and divisions 7.a-c and 7.e-j (Celtic Seas). Published 6 October 2017. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/syc.27.67a-ce-j.pdf

OaBrien, S., Blaszkowski, M., Butler, R., Fee, D., Hernon, P., Santana, C., Lordan, C. and Doyle, J. 2017. The Smalls Nephrops Grounds (FU22) 2017 UWTV Survey Report and catch options for 2018. Marine Institute UWTV Survey report.