Market Name: Norway Lobster
Scientific Name: Nephrops norvegicus
Common Names: Deep Sea Lobster, Dublin Bay Prawn, Langoustine, Nephrops, Norwegian Lobster, Scampi.
French Name: Homard, Langouste
German Name: Hummer
Italian Name: Aragosta
Japanese Name: Ise ebi
Spanish Name: Cigala
Sustainability: Ocean Wise Seafood
Nephrops norvegicus, known variously as the Norway lobster, Dublin Bay prawn, langoustine (compare langostino) or scampi, is a slim, orange-pink lobster which grows up to 25 cm (10 in) long, and is “the most important commercial crustacean in Europe”. It is now the only extant species in the genus Nephrops, after several other species were moved to the closely related genus Metanephrops. It lives in the north-eastern Atlantic Ocean, and parts of the Mediterranean Sea, but is absent from the Baltic Sea and Black Sea. Adults emerge from their burrows at night to feed on worms and fish.
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Nephrops norvegicus has the typical body shape of a lobster, albeit narrower than the large genus Homarus. It is pale orange in colour, and grows to a typical length of 18–20 centimetres (7–8 in), or exceptionally 25 cm (10 in) long, including the tail and claws. A carapace covers the animal’s cephalothorax, while the abdomen is long and segmented, ending in a broad tail fan. The first three pairs of legs bear claws, of which the first are greatly elongated and bear ridges of spines. Of the two pairs of antennae, the second is the longer and thinner. There is a long, spinous rostrum, and the compound eyes are kidney-shaped, providing the name of the genus, from the Greek roots νεφρός (nephros, “kidney”) and ops (“eye”).
Where They Live
Nephrops norvegicus is found in the north-eastern Atlantic Ocean and North Sea as far north as Iceland and northern Norway, and south to Portugal. It is not common in the Mediterranean Sea except in the Adriatic Sea, notably the north Adriatic. It is absent from both the Black Sea and the Baltic Sea. Due to its ecological demands for particular sediments, N. norvegicus has a very patchy distribution, and is divided into over 30 populations. These populations are separated by inhospitable terrain, and adults rarely travel distances greater than a few hundred metres.
The North East Atlantic individual biological stocks of Nephrops are identified as functional units. A number of functional units make up the sea areas over which a total allowable catch (TAC) is set annually by the EU Council of Ministers. For example, the TAC set for North Sea Nephrops is based on the aggregate total tonnage of removals recommended by science for nine separate functional unit areas. This method has attracted criticism because it can promote the overexploitation of a specific functional unit even though the overall TAC is under-fished. In 2016, the UK implemented a package of emergency technical measures with the cooperation of the fishing industry aimed at reducing fishing activity to induce recovery of the Nephrops stock in the Farn(e) Deeps off North East England which was close to collapse. A stock assessment completed in 2018 by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) shows that fishing pressure has been cut and this stock is now below FMSY and that stock size is above MSY Btrigger meaning that the Farne Deeps nephrops stock is being fished at a sustainable level. However, ICES also warn that any substantial transfer of the current surplus fishing opportunities from other functional units to the Farne Deeps would rapidly lead to overexploitation. This suggests that controls on fishing effort should continue at least until the biomass reaches a size that is sustainable when measured against the level of fishing activity by all fishermen wanting to target the stock.
The muscular tail of Nephrops norvegicus is frequently eaten, and its meat is known as scampi. The N. norvegicus is eaten only on special occasions in Spain and Portugal, where it is less expensive than the common lobster, Homarus gammarus. N. norvegicus is an important species for fisheries, being caught mostly by trawling. Around 60,000 tonnes are caught annually, half of it in the United Kingdom’s waters.