Plaice

Pleuronectes platessa

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Western Channel
Stock detail — 7.e
Picture of Plaice

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

The Spawning stock biomass (SSB) for the stock in this area has increased substantially since 2008, and is currently well above MSY Btrigger. Fishing mortality is currently above FMSY. Plaice is a long-lived species and subject to high fishing pressure. Look for fish sold by vessels involved in the “Seafish Responsible Fishing Scheme” for assurance of scientific co-operation, better environmental practices and experimentation with Benthic Release Panels to reduce impact to bottom dwelling species. Avoid eating immature plaice below 30cm and during their breeding season, January to March.

Biology

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: 0.25 info

Stock Area

Western Channel

Stock information

The assessment is indicative of trends. Fishing mortality (F) declined substantially after 2007, but has increased again since 2015 and is currently above FMSY. The Spawning stock biomass (SSB) has increased substantially since 2008, and is currently well above MSY Btrigger. Recruitment has been fluctuating without trend.
ICES assesses that fishing pressure on the stock is above FMSY proxy but below Fpa and Flim, and Spawning stock size is above MSY Btrigger proxy, Bpa, and Blim.
ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, catches of the Division 7.e plaice stock in 2019 should be no more than 3648 tonnes.

Management

Criterion score: 0.5 info

The stock in this area is managed through a single Total Allowable Catch (TAC) which covers both divisions 7.d and 7.e. Scientists advise that management should ensure that fishing opportunities are in line with the stock status for each of the stocks in the combined management area to ensure that both stocks are exploited sustainably. For this reason, scientists advise that separate management areas would be desirable.
Plaice is caught in a mixed fishery targeting sole, with 80 mm mesh size. This leads to many plaice being discarded because this mesh size is not matched to the minimum conservation reference size (MCRS). The discard rate is 31% of the total catch in weight.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Plaice in this area are taken as a bycatch in the beam trawl fishery (69%) mainly targeting sole and anglerfish, and as part of a mixed demersal fishery by otter trawls (27%). Gillnets (3%) are also used. Beam trawling, especially using chain-mat gear, is damaging to the seabed and known to have a significant impact on the benthic communities, although less so on soft substrates. Smaller meshes are used (80 mm) by both beam and otter trawlers in mixed flatfish fisheries, resulting in the discarding of large numbers of undersized plaice below the legal minimum landing size. A distinction should be made however between the type of beam trawlers operating in the southern North Sea, and those operating off the south coast of England (ICES Area VII), for example. The main distinction is in the size of the vessel and the length of beam used. Beam trawlers operating in the North Sea are typically 30-45m in length and have an aggregated beam length of 24m - 12m beams on each side of the vessel - with engines of 800-2,500hp. By comparison, a significant number of vessels operating in Area V11 are under 24m, have 300hp engines and are restricted by their size and power to an aggregated beam length of 9m. Also the majority of beam trawlers in Area VII use wheels on their fishing gear instead of skid shoes. This reduces fuel consumption and the impact of the gear on the seabed. Look for vessels which are involved in the “Seafish Responsible Fishing Scheme” for assurance of scientific co-operation, better environmental practices and experimentation with Benthic Release Panels to reduce impact to bottom dwelling species. Benthic drop-out panels release about 75% of benthic invertebrates from the catches. 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. Discards are estimated at 23% in 2016 (53% in 2015), with beam trawlers accounting for 46% and otter trawls 53%.

Alternatives

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.

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

References

ICES 2018. ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort Celtic Seas and Greater North Sea ecoregions. Published 29 June 2018. http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/ple.27.7e.pdf (Accessed July 2018)