This review summarizes the data on habitat, population ecology and ecosystem roles of Nephrops norvegicus. The species has a broad range in the northeast Atlantic and Mediterranean, although it is possible that small or isolated patches of suitable habitat may not be occupied due to restrictions on larval supply. Nephrops densities are related to the silt-clay content of sediments, with interactions between habitat quality and density indicating competition for resources. An analysis of density-size interactions across fishery functional management units (FUs) suggests that growth is suppressed at high densities due to competition (e. g. in the western Irish Sea), although recruitment dynamics or size-selective mortality may also shape the size structure of populations. Nephrops biomass available across FUs may be similar, reflecting a constant yield due to the inverse relationship between individual size and population density. Gaps in the understanding of Nephrops' ecology reflect uncertain ageing criteria, reliance on fisheries-dependent data and few if any undisturbed habitats in which to examine fisheries-independent interactions.