Plaice

Pleuronectes platessa

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Gill or fixed net
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: 0.75 info

Plaice in this area are taken in gillnets (3%). Gillnets can be very size selective for the target fish but can be unselective at the species level for both non-target fish and for mammals, birds and turtles. Harbour porpoise are highly prone to bycatch in bottom-set gillnets used to catch demersal species such as cod, turbot, hake, saithe, sole, skate and dogfish and tangle net fisheries used to capture flat fish and crustaceans due largely to their feeding habits on or near the seabed. Porpoises are generally taken as single animals. The number taken ranges from 1 in 20 hauls for skate to 1 in 54 hauls for cod. High levels of Harbour porpoise bycatch have been recorded in the Celtic and North Sea. A recent survey (2008) estimated the number of harbour porpoises bycaught in gill and tangle nets in ICES Area VII at 838. EU Regulation 821/2004 requires all community fishing vessels, greater than or equal to 12 metres, using drift, gill and tangle nets to use pingers - acoustic devices to deter marine mammal entanglement in nets. It also requires Member States to introduce observer schemes to monitor cetacean bycatch in certain fisheries, most notably in pelagic trawls, and the phase out of driftnet fisheries in the Baltic Sea. However, despite the pinger requirement coming into force in June 2005 in the North Sea, January 2006 in the Western Channel and January 2007 in the Eastern Channel, the UK fleet (along with the majority of European vessels) is still not applying this provision. The reasons given are that the pingers available present too many practical and health and safety problems. This means that in the UK there are still no mitigation measures in place to reduce what is likely to remain the main conservation and welfare problem affecting cetaceans around our coasts. Other measures that may be adopted to reduce the number of marine mammal casualities include reducing the length of the net and soak time i.e. the period of time the net is in the sea. Because of their durability, nets are made of nylon; if lost the net can continue to fish, a phenomenon known as ‘ghost fishing’. 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.

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)