Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Nephrops norvegicus (Linnaeus, 1758)

    Geographical distribution
    Feeding behavior
    Maximum size
    Recruitment and nursery areas
    Length at first maturity
    Eggs, larvae and post-larvae
    Sex ratio
    Length-weight relationships
    Natural mortality
    Von Bertalanffy growth function (VBGF)
    Stock units
    Biomass indices from trawl surveys
    Stock assessment
    Legislation and management

Figure 42. Nephrops norvegicus (from Fischer et al., 1987)

Class:  Malacostraca
Order:  Decapoda
Family:  Nephropidae
English name:  Norway lobster


Norway lobster (Figure 42), Nephrops norvegicus (Linnaeus, 1758), also called Dublin Bay prawn, langoustine or Scampo, is a slim orange-pink lobster up to 24 cm (TL) long. The body is long, robust and more or less flat laterally. The head and thorax have a non-segmented cover (the carapace) while the long abdomen is clearly segmented with a broad fan-like tail. The first pair of cephalic appendices has composite eyes, each with a mobile peduncule. The first pair of antennae is short and forked, while the second pair much longer and thinner than the first. The first pair of legs is well developed with strong chelae. The second and third are thinner and bear claws (Relini et al., 1999).


Geographical distribution
Norway lobster is a commercially important benthic decapod crustacean commonly found in northeastern Atlantic waters from the coast of Iceland to Morocco and in the Mediterranean Sea (d’Udekem d’Acoz, 1999). Its depth range extends from 15 to 800 m, although it is typically found on the northeastern Atlantic shelf at depths between 300 and 600 m (Tuck et al., 1997) and beween 200 and 800 m in the Mediterranean (Maynou and Sarda`, 1997) (Figure 43).

Figure 43. Distribution of Nephrops norvegicus in the Mediterranean Sea and north-east Atlantic Ocean (from

Nephrops norvegicus is generally found sublittorally in soft sediment, commonly at depths range of 200-800 m, although considerable populations exist at depths <200 m, for example in the Adriatic Sea. There are many records of Nephrops norvegicus populations <20 m in Scottish Sea Lochs. They live in shallow burrows and are common on grounds with fine cohesive mud which is stable enough to support their unlined burrows. In the Mediterranean Sea its bathymetric distribution ranges from the continental shelf to bathyal grounds, reaching depths of 871 m in the western Mediterranean (Abelló et al., 1988); however maximal densities are found between 245 and 485 m (Cartes et al., 1994).

Norway lobsters are considered good walkers; however they do not seem to be good swimmers. Although, Hammond and Naylor (1977) have presented qualitative evidence that the nocturnal activity peak appears to be synchronized by falling light intensity at dusk, no clear migration patterns have been described for N. norvegicus.

Feeding behavior
N. norvegicus is known as an euryphagous and non-selective species, consuming a great variety of crustaceans, fish and molluscs, either as an active predator or scavenger (Loo et al., 1993). Cristo and Cartes (1998) in N. norvegicus stomach contents found about 119 prey-categories: small pieces of crustacean carapace, bivalve and gastropod shells, fish vertebrae and otoliths and other hard and soft parts of prey.


Maximum size
Nephrops norvegicus is a species with separate sexes, with males, on average, larger than females (Table 15). Relini et al. (1999) stated that its maximal total length is 24 cm, and 75 mm carapace length. However larger specimens have been caught, primarily in the northern Adriatic. Crnković (1965), for example, found specimens up to 26.5 cm TL in northern Adriatic channels. Mytilineou et al. (1998) in a comparative study among different areas in the Mediterranean Sea and the adjacent Atlantic listed maximum carapace length (mm) of Nephrops specimens in several Mediterranean areas for each sex separately. In the Strait of Sicily (GSA 16) data obtained in the MEDITS trawl surveys from 2008 and 2012 show the largest specimens ranging from 59 to 70 mm (CL) for males and from 47 to 49 mm (CL) for females.

Table 15. Maximum carapace length (mm) by sex of Nephrops norvegicus specimens in the Mediterranean region.





Mytilineou et al. (1998)
Mytilineou et al. (1998)
Mytilineou et al. (1998)
Mytilineou et al. (1998)
Mytilineou et al. (1998)
Mytilineou et al. (1998)
Ragonese et al. (2004)

GSA 2 - Alboran Island
GSA 6 – Northern Spain (Catalan Sea)
GSA 9 - Ligurian and North Tyrrhenian Sea
GSA 10 - South Tyrrhenian Sea
GSA 17 – Northern Adriatic Sea
GSA 16 - South of Sicily


The periods of hatching and spawning, and the length of the incubation period, vary with latitude and the breeding cycle changes from annual to biennial moving from south to north (Bell et al., 2006). Incubation of eggs is temperature-dependent, and in colder climates, the duration of the incubation period increases (Bailey 1984). In all areas reproduction showed clear seasonality both in terms of ovarian maturation and the brooding period.
In the Adriatic Sea, N. norvegicus spawns once a year (Froglia and Gramitto, 1981).
The Norway lobster females in the Strait of Sicily undergo ovary ripening mainly in spring and spawn in summer-autumn. Orsi Relini et al. (1998) gave an overal picture of the reproductive pattern of Norway lobster from different Mediterranean areas. The proportion of females bearing a mature ovary peaks in spring or at the beginning of summer.
The highest values were found in June in the Gulf of Euboikos, in June and July in the Adriatic, in July in the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Seas, in April, June and July in the Catalan Sea, in June and May- August in the Alboran Sea and in May and June in the Algarve Sea.
The presence of berried females shows a seasonal trend characterized by summer and autumn peaks The highest values were registered in July and December in the Gulf of Euboikos, in October and November in the Adriatic, in September-November in the Ligurian and Tyrrhenian Seas, in August and December in the Catalan Sea, in September-October and December in the Alboran Sea and in September and December or January in the Algarve Sea.
Persistent spawning areas have been identified in the southeast sector of the Strait, next the extreme south border of GSA 16 (GSA15+16) and the south border of GSA15 (GSA15+16) (Garofalo et al., 2011) (Figure 44). However, there is also evidence of concentration areas of spawners, although not very persistent ones, in the bathyial basin to the northwest of Malta and to the west of the Adventure Bank, (the latter co- occurrent with a nursery ground) (Garofalo et al., 2011).

Figure 44. Main spawning areas in GSAs 15 and 16, south-central Mediterranean (Colloca et al., 2013).

Recruitment and nursery areas
Recruitment of N. norvegicus occurs more or less continuously in the Strait of Sicily even though a stronger recruitment pulse is detected in autumn. The mean size of the first Gaussian component in length structure (about 22 mm CL) is well below the estimated size at 50% maturity, suggesting a precocious recruitment to the fishery (Figure 45).

Figure 45. Main nursery areas in GSAs 15 and 16, south-central Mediterranean (Colloca et al., 2013).

Recruits of Norway lobster in the Strait of Sicily are mainly distributed on muddy bottoms of the upper slope between 250 and 500 m depth. Persistency analysis of density hotspots shows the presence of two large nurseries located in the northwest sector of the Strait of Sicily, to the west (GSA15 and 16) as well as to the east (GSA15 and 16) of the Adventure Bank at about 300-450 m depth (Garofalo et al. 2011). No stable recruitment area is identified in the easternmost part of the Strait, although high concentrations of immature specimens, located to the North of Gozo and to the south/southwest of Malta, have been described in a previous study (Knittweis and Dimech, 2011).

Length at first maturity
Orsi Relini et al., (1998) estimated that lobster females in the Mediterranean are able to spawn very precociously (18-29 mm CL), at two or three years old. Moreover, Norway lobster females spawning size seems linked to the geographical area with variations along the latitudinal gradient; minimum spawning size is lower in the Atlantic (18-20 mm CL: Symonds, 1972), the Adriatic (18-22 mm: Froglia and Gramitto, 1988) than in the Northern Mediterranean Sea (29 mm: Orsi Relini and Relini, 1989; Campillo et al., 1991). Orsi Relini et al. (1998) reported these differences among seven areas in the Central Mediterranean Sea and in the Atlantic. In Table 16 carapace length of the smallest female in advanced maturation, smallest berried individuals and 50% maturity size in each area are reported.

Table 16. Carapace length of smallest females in advanced maturation, smallest berried individuals, length at 50% maturity and mean number of egg per female in each area. Redraw by Orsi Relini et al. (1998).

AREA Smallest female in advanced maturation Smallest Ovigerous Length at 50% maturity Mean number of eggs for berried female

Atlantic Ocean
GSA 2 - Alboran Island
GSA 6 – Northern Spain, Catalan Sea
GSA 9 - Ligurian and Northern Tyrrhenian Sea
GSA 10 – South Tyrrhenian Sea
GSA 17 – Northern Adriatic Sea
Euboikos Gulf

25 mm
30 mm
24 mm
29 mm
27 mm
25 mm
19 mm
24 mm
30 mm
27 mm
27 mm
27 mm
24 mm
23 mm
36 mm
30 mm
32 mm
32 mm
30 mm
33 mm

At GSA 16 minimum spawning size of Norway lobster females resulted higher than that described for the other basins, ranging from 30 to 32 mm (CL) (Ragonese et al., 2004). The trend in length at 50% maturity of female in GSA 16 derived from MEDITS trawl survey data is reported in Figure 46. A clear decreasing trend is evident for the analysed time series.

Figure 46. Length at first sexual maturity (L50 in cm of Carapace Length) in GSA 16 from 1996 to 2010.

Eggs, larvae and post-larvae
Information on eggs and larvae of N. norvegicus in the Mediterranean Sea are rare or insufficient. However, Relini et al. (1999) reported the presence of Norway lobster larvae in the Adriatic plankton from January to April.

Sex ratio
Usually the N. norvegicus sex ratio fluctuates around 1:1 also comparing different and very distant geographical areas (Sardà et al., 1998). However, several Authors described a significant change through the year. This oscillation depends on the mating period (Froglia and Gramitto, 1981; Ungaro et al., 1999) and bon the minor female activity, when they carry external eggs.
In GSA 16, the sex ratio derived from the MEDITS Trawl Surveys from 1994 to 2012 remained stable and close to 0.5 (Figure 47).

Figure 47. Sex ratio of N. norvegicus in GSA 16, calculated as the ratio of the number of females to the total number of sexed individuals, from MEDITS Trawl Survey data.

Length-weight relationships
Ragonese et al. (2004) calculated the length–weight relationship for N. norvegicus in GSA 16 using the standard allometric model (Table 17).

Table 17. Length–weight relationship (total weight=a ; carapace length=b) parameters calculated on the GSA 16 population (To be verified. Posible errors were found in Ragonese et al., 2004).

Parameter Females Males



Natural mortality
Natural mortality estimated for the two sexes combined in the GSA 16 is 0.20 (Ragonese et al., 2004).

Von Bertalanffy growth function (VBGF)
There are some differences in growth parameters between males and females. Males grow larger than females. Differences in growth were also observed; these differences were related to differences in density among settlements in different parts of the Adriatic (Marano et al., 1998; Froglia and Gramitto, 1988). They are the result of differences in ecological conditions, however, the methods used in calculating the parameters might influence the growth parameter estimates. A synthesis of VBGF parameters available in the Mediterranean is reported in Table 18.
According to Mytilineou et al. (1998), the the growth parameters obtained for different areas of Mediterranean and adjacent Atlantic Ocean areas showed differences which could not be considered very important except in the case of the Nephrops population of the Alboran Sea, which was characterised by a high growth rate. All other areas seemed to be close; among them the populations from Euboikos Gulf and Catalan Sea being the most different.

Stock units
No information on stock units of Norwey lobster in the Mediterranean are available.


Biomass indices from trawl surveys
Density and biomass indices calculated for the N. norvegicus stock in the GSA 16 (Medits Trawl survey) since 1994 show a clear increasing (Figures 48 and 49). The positive trend, in particular, is evident in the period 2003 – 2012 when the biomass increase from about 1 Kg/Km2 to 10 Kg/Km2 and the abundance increase from about 150 n/Km2 to about 300 n/Km2.

Table 18. Growth parameters of N. norvegicus according to the VBGF. Lengths refer to carapace length; Time unit = year; F = females, M = males; Unsex = unsexed; Bhattac. = Bhattacharia; * = total length.

Author GSA Area Method Sex L


Froglia and Gramitto (1988)

17 -
Jabuka Pit
IMBC et al. (1994) 17



NW Ancona

Jabuka Pit




Marano et al. (1998) 18 SW Adriatic BHATTACH.

Sardà et al. (1998) 17 off Ancona - M
Maiorano et al. (2010) 19 NW Ionian Sea LFA M
Guijarro et al. (2010) 09 Ligurian and NTyrrhenian Sea LCA M
Ligas et al. (2011) 09 Ligurian and NTyrrhenian Sea LCA M
Ragonese et al. (2011) 16 Strait of Sicily VBGF M


Figure 48. Time-series of N. norvegicus Biomass indices (kg /km2) (MEDITS Trawl Surveys; 10–800 m depth range) in GSAs 16.

Figure 49. Time-series of N. norvegicus Abundance indices (kg /km2) (MEDITS Trawl Surveys; 10–800 m depth range) in GSA 16.

The Medits trend for adults Norway lobster in GSA 16 shows a clear increasing trend since 2000 ranging from about 20 individuals per square kilometer in 2002 to about 60 specimens per square kilometer in 2012 (Figure 50). On the contrary any specific trend can be observed for juveniles (Figure 51) (STECF EWG 13-09).

Figure 50. Abundance indices of Norway lobster adults (ages 4-8+) in GSA 16.


Figure 51. Abundance indices of Norway lobster juveniles (ages 1-2) in GSA 16.

Stock assessment
Assessment of historic stock parameters
A stock assessment of Norway lobster was carried out by applying an eXtended Survival Analysis (XSA) to the annual landings data of the GSAs 16 and 15 (Malta) for the period 2002 – 2012. The assessment was calibrated using MEDITS survey data collected in the same period (STECF EWG 13-09). The growth parameters for the two sexes combined were L∞=72.1, K=0.17, t0=0 and the length-weight relationships parameters were a = 0.000373, b = 3.1576. The vector of mortality and maturity at age were reported in Table 19.

Table 19. Natural mortality (M) vector used for the stock assessment of N. norvegicus for GSAs 15 and 16 combined.

Age class M Proportion of mature individuals
1 0.54 0.01
2 0.41 0.16
3 0.35 0.40
3 0.32 0.70
3 0.30 0.86
3 0.29 0.94
3 0.28 1.00
3 0.27 1.00

In the period 2002-2012, the SSB ranged between about 690 and 960 t. In the same period recruitment at age 1 fluctuated widely between 37.7 and 93.3 million (Table 5). XSA estimates of Fbar2-7 showed a declining temporal trend from 0.89 in 2003 to 0.42 in 2012 (Table 20).

Table 20. Spawning stock biomass (SSB), recruitment and Fbar estimates by XSA for Norway lobster in GSA 15 and 16 from 2006 to 2011.

  2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012


795.3 875.75 710.22 694.57 857.84 926.21 964.8 944.5 791.7 788.86 773.77


37.781 56.934 86.377 93.391 84.656 65.004 60.5 77.642 84.391 72.266 74.866


0.52 0.89 0.63 0.63 0.69 0.62 0.57 0.77 0.62 0.66 0.42

According to the statistical catch at age (SCA) as implemented in the a4a package gave a SSB ranged between about 860 and 1892 t 146.5.3 million (Table 20). The a4a estimates of Fbar2-7 ranged between 0.15 (2012) and 0.65 (2003) (Table 21).

Table 21. Spawning stock biomass (SSB), recruitment and Fbar estimates by SCA for Norway lobster in GSA 15 and 16 from 2006 to 2011.

  2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012


990.9 1117.5 860 913.2 1026.2 1071.9 1180.1 1309.1 1151 1400.7 1892.4

Recruitment age 1

56.178 61.146 79.374 73.29 78.717 76.003 72.141 87.502 146.46 230.332 22.383


0.36 0.65 0.41 0.37 0.43 0.4 0.36 0.52 0.32 0.29 0.15

Long term prediction
Reference F for the Yield per recruit (YPR) analysis was estimated using 1 to 8+ years age classes using the FLR routine based on the exploitation pattern estimated by the statistical catch at age. F01 was estimated to be 0.20 (STECF EWG 13-09).

Scientific advice
The final advice of STECF EWG 13-09 has been based on the results of the statistical catch at age (SCA) carried out using the a4a package. The SCA was considered as more suitable in assessing F in the more recent years than the XSA also considering its flexible parameterization of selectivity-at-age. SCA, compared with XSA, returned a lower (30-60%) estimate of Fbar combined with higher and apparently, more reliable, estimates of SSB.

State of the spawning stock size
In the period 2002-2012 the SSB, as reconstructed by SCA, showed an increases from 990 t to about 1.892 t in 2012. Recruitment at age 1 varied between 60.5 and 85.4 million in the period 2002-2011 showing an abrupt decline to 19.3 million in 2012 (STECF EWG 13-09).

Management recommendations
STECF EWG 13-09 proposes F0.1 ≤ 0.20 as a limit management reference point consistent with high long term yields (FMSY proxy) for the Norway lobster stock in GSas 15 and 16. Based on the Fcur estimated by the statistical catch at age (a4a assessment), the stock was exploited unsustainably in the period 2002-2011. The estimated Fcur was however below FMSY in 2012 indicating that in this year the stock was exploited sustainably. EWG 13-09 recommends the relevant fleets’ effort or catches are not increased to maintain fishing mortality below the proposed FMSY level, in order to avoid future loss in stock productivity and landings. This should be achieved by means of a multi-annual management plan.

Nephrops norvegicus (Norway lobster), is fished almost exclusively by otter trawl, together with other species, notably Parapenaeus longirostris (Deep water pink shrimp), Merluccius merluccius (European hake), Eledone spp. (horned and musky octopuses), Illex coindetii (broad tail short squid), Todaropsis eblanae (lesser flying squid), Lophius spp. (anglerfish), and Raja spp. (rays) (Anon., 2000). Moreover, in the Adriatic Sea, where Norway lobster is distributed mainly in the neritic area, fishing is primarily based on two types of gear: the majority of the catch is by bottom trawl nets and the rest with traps (mainly in channel areas of the northern Adriatic).

Fishing zones and seasons
Norway lobster is one of the main commercial species for trawlers exploiting fishing grounds on the upper slope targeting mainly the deep sea pink shrimp (Parapenaeus longirostris) and the giant red shrimp (Aristaeomorpha foliacea). Figure 52 shows the main fishing ground of the Strait of Sicily. Table 22 lists the fishing area in which N. norvegicus is mainly caught. In the Western and Central part of the Strait of Sicily (areas A, C, D and E) Norway lobster fisheries operate all around the year. On the contrary in the southern part (areas F and G) of the Strait trawl vessels fish just fishery in winter and spring.

Figure 52. Main fishing areas of the fishery trawlers in the Strait of Sicily (redrawn from Fiorentino et al. 2003).

Table 22. Main fishing-grounds and fishery features of the Sicilian trawlers fishing Norway lobster in the Strait of Sicily (from Fiorentino et al., 2003).

Discards for this stock are negligible.

The speckled M. monoceros exploitation in the Gulf of Gabès is carried out by two types of fishing: coastal or artisanal fishery (using trammel nets) and benthic trawling (using the shrimp bottom trawl). Moreover, it should be noted that this species is also landed in significant quantities by fishing units through illegal gear called mini-trawl or ‘kiss’. However, the contributions of these units are not reported in the fishery statistics.
Bottom trawling for shrimp, essentially in the southern region of Tunisia (Gulf of Gabès), is carried out with netting with a small mesh size (from 48 mm in the wings to 40 mm in the cod-end). The average vertical mouth opening is 2 m.
Trammel wire 40 000 (40 000 mesh / kg) is used in southern Tunisia for shrimp fishery and is composed of three layers of netting. The middle layer presents a mesh size of about 22 to 24 mm and a low hanging ratio which is less than 0.5 for some slack that promotes capture.
The two other layers are in turn stretched mesh 5 to 7 times greater than that of the previous one.

Legislation and management
In GSA 16 and in the Strait of Sicily in general there is no formal management for Norway lobster. As in other areas of the Mediterranean, the stock management in GSA 15 and 16 is based on control of fishing capacity (licenses), fishing effort (fishing activity) and technical measures (mesh size and area/season closures). The minimum landing size is 20 mm CL and landing berried females is prohibited (Reg. EC 1967/06). A combination of these measures is at the basis of two long term management plan adopted by Italian Government in 2010 for management of Sicilian trawlers operating in the area (see also the P. longirostris chapter).
In Sicilian waters (GSA 15), in order to limit the over-capacity of fishing fleet, no new fishing licenses have been assigned in Italy since 1989 and a progressive reduction of the trawl fleet capacity is currently underway. Otherwise, Maltese fishing licenses have been fixed at a total of 25 trawlers since 2012.
There is no closed season in place in Malta, but the Maltese Islands are surrounded by a 25 nautical mile fisheries management zone where fishing effort and capacity are being managed by limiting vessel sizes, as well as total vessel engine powers (EC 813/04; EC 1967/06). Trawling is allowed within this designated conservation area, however only by vessels not exceeding an overall length of 24 m and only within designated areas. Vessels fishing in the management zone hold a special fishing permit in accordance with Regulation EC 1627/94. Moreover, the overall capacity of the trawlers allowed to fish in the 25nm zone cannot exceed 4 800 kW and the total fishing effort of all vessels is not allowed to exceed an overall engine power and tonnage of 83 000 kW and 4 035 GT respectively. The fishing capacity of any single vessel with a license to operate at less than 200m depth cannot exceed 185 kW.
In order to protect coastal habitats, the use of towed gears is prohibited within 3 nm of the coast or within the 50 m isobath if the latter is reached closer to the coast (EC 1967/2006; Res. GFCM 36/2012/3). In order to protect deep water habitats trawling at depths beyond 1000 m is also prohibited at EU and GFCM level (EC 1967/2006; Rec. GFCM 2005/1).

In terms of technical measures, EC 1967/2006 fixed minimum mesh size for bottom trawling of EU fishing vessels. Mesh size had to be at least 40 mm squared at codend or at the duly justified request of the ship owner a 50 mm stretched diamond mesh in July 2008; derogations were only possible up to 2010. Moreover, diamond mesh panels can only be used if it is demonstrated that size selectivity is equivalent to or higher than using 40 mm square mesh panels (EC 1343/2011).

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