The main characteristics concerning distribution, size structure and total mortality of two of the most important decapod crustaceans of commercial interest in the Mediterranean Sea, Nephrops norvegicus and Parapenaeus longirostris, are studied along the European Mediterranean coasts. The study is based on data collected during a series of six trawl surveys performed in spring from 1994 to 1999 from the Gibraltar Straits to the Aegean Sea. The population size structure identified in the different geographical sectors is analysed taking into account two bathymetric sectors: continental shelf and upper slope. Differences in N. norvegicus population demographic structure among geographical sectors, as well as in total mortality, appear to be highly related to different exploitation levels. Size structure in P. longirostris also shows a great heterogeneity throughout the different geographical sectors. Considering that both species are heavily exploited all along the studied area, the observed differences can be interpreted as different responses to exploitation related to the widely differing life history characteristics of the mentioned species. In fact, N. norvegicus is a long-lived, benthic, burrowing species with low growth and mortality rates, and P. longirostris an epibenthic short-lived species characterised by higher rates of growth and mortality.