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Newlyn Fish Market - boats due to land.

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Nephrops, langoustine, prawn and scampi - Cefas Endeavour goes to the prawns!

This year we are heading out into the calmer waters of a warming June in contrast to the usual bracing October swells. This change of timing means that we survey before the start of the main trawling season and hopefully avoid the murky conditions caused by the fishing gear stirring up the fine sediments where the nephrops construct their burrow systems. The revised strategy has paid dividends so far, with smooth camera sledge towing conditions and lovely clear waters to count burrows in.

Nephrops (scientific name Nephrops norvegicus) are also known as langoustine, Dublin bay prawns, Norwegian lobsters or the more familiar scampi. They have a wide area of distribution across European waters, from Iceland to the southern coast of Portugal, Morocco and throughout the Mediterranean. As well as being one of the most valuable catches for the UK fishing industry, Nephrops are the only crustacean fishery in European waters subject to EU quotas. These are decided acting on the advice of ICES (the International Council for the Exploration of the Seas) member countries with interests in the fishery, who perform standardised surveys to obtain an index of the Nephrops population status. Our Nephrops TV survey contributes population estimates for the biggest Nephrops fishery in English waters in the Farn Deeps, off the NE coast in the North Sea.

Nephrops excavate burrows in soft muddy sediments. Their burrow entrances have a distinctive appearance, with a semi-circular "arched" entrance and a "driveway" formed from excavated material and usually showing their tracks. With training and practice, it is possible to distinguish between the burrows of Nephrops and those of other bottom-dwelling creatures. So that is our task for the next 10 days; staring at a TV screen, counting holes in the seabed, and taking pictures of mud, 24/7. Ah the glamorous life of a fisheries biologist!

With thanks to Karen aboard the Cefas Endeavour.