Pleuronectes platessa

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Beam trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — North Sea and Skagerrak
Stock detail — 4. and Subdivision 20
Picture of Plaice

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

Plaice is a long-lived species and subject to high fishing pressure. The stock in this area is classified as healthy and fishing mortality is at a sustainable level. However discards of undersized plaice and/or over quota fish in otter and beam trawl fisheries for flatfish (sole and plaice) in the southern North Sea are substantial. In 2016, 32% of the total catch of North Sea plaice was discarded. Avoid eating immature plaice below 30cm and during their breeding season of January to March. Increase the sustainability of the fish you eat by choosing fish other than that caught by beam trawlers. The Cooperative Fishery Organisation (CVO) North Sea plaice and sole fishery was certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as an environmentally responsible or sustainable fishery in December 2012.


Plaice is a bottom-dwelling flatfish. It spawns in the early months of the year (January to March) and sometimes makes long spawning migrations. North Sea plaice reach between 35 and 45 cm in their 6th year. It is a long-lived species, becoming sexually mature at 3-7 years (females) 2-6 (males) and living 30 years or more. Maximum reported age 50 years.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0 info

Stock Area

North Sea and Skagerrak

Stock information

The spawning-stock biomass (SSB) is well above MSY Btrigger, and has markedly increased since 2008, following a substantial reduction in fishing mortality (F) since 1999. Recruitment has been fluctuating around the long-term average since the mid-1990s. Since 2009, fishing mortality (F) has been estimated at around FMSY.
ICES assesses that fishing pressure on the stock is below FMSY, Fpa, and Flim; spawning-stock size is above MSY Btrigger, Bpa, and Blim.
ICES advises that when the MSY approach is applied, catches in 2019 should be no more than 139 052 tonnes.


Criterion score: 0.5 info

There is a two-stage (a recovery plan during its first stage and a management plan during its second stage) management plan for North Sea sole and plaice adopted by the EC in June 2007. The plan is now in stage two. An EU multiannual management plan (MAP) has also been proposed for this stock. Since 2016, large mesh trawlers are under landing obligation in Subarea 4. The fleets that contribute most to the total discards, beam and Nephrops trawlers, are currently not under landing obligation in Subarea 4. Despite the introduction of the landing obligation 34% of the total catch was discarded in 2017.

Please see the ‘Capture info’ TAB for more info about pulse trawling.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.75 info

Plaice is predominantly caught by beam trawlers (53%) in the central part of the North Sea wth a minimum mesh size of 100-120 mm depending on area. A mixed fishery with sole takes place in the southern North Sea using 80 mm nets. This mesh size catches plaice under the minimum landing size of 27 cm, which causes high discard rates. In 2017 of a total catch of 113184 t, 38967 t (34%) were discards (32% in 2016; 37% in 2015). Increasing the mesh size would result in less bycatch and discarding of juvenile plaice, increasing the long term sustainability of the stock and increasing yields. However, this would lead to a loss of marketable sole. The minimum landing size for plaice in EU waters is 27cm. The approximate size at which 50% of females mature or first spawn is around 30-34cm.


Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.

Halibut, Atlantic (Farmed)
Halibut, Pacific
Sole, Dover sole, Common sole
Sole, Lemon
Turbot (Caught at sea)
Turbot (Farmed)


ICES 2018. ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort Greater North Sea Ecoregion.Published 29 June 2018. (Accessed July 2018)