Sole, Dover sole, Common sole

Solea solea

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Gill or fixed net
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Skagerrak and Kattegat, western Baltic Sea
Stock detail — 22-24
Picture of Sole, Dover sole, Common sole

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

ICES assesses that fishing pressure on the stock is too high, it is above FMSY and Fpa but below Flim, and spawning stock size is at a sustainable level, above MSY Btrigger and Blim. Avoid eating immature sole (less than 30cm) and fresh (not previously frozen) fish caught during the breeding season (April-June).


Sole is a right-eyed flatfish (eyes on the right hand side of the body) and belongs to the family of flatfishes known as Soleidae. It spawns in spring and early summer in shallow coastal water, from April to June in the southern North Sea, from May-June off the coast of Ireland and southern England, and as early as February in the Mediterranean. Common sole become sexually mature at 3-5 years, when 25-35cm long, the males being somewhat smaller than the females. It can attain lengths of 60-70cm and weigh 3kg.The maximum reported age is 26 years. Sole is a nocturnal predator and therefore more susceptible to capture by fisheries at night than in daylight.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.75 info

Stock Area

Skagerrak and Kattegat, western Baltic Sea

Stock information

Spawning-stock biomass (SSB) has been fluctuating close to Blim since 2008 but has in the past three years increased and is now above MSY Btrigger. Fishing mortality (F) has increased above Fmsy in 2017. The recruitment since 2004 is estimated to be below the average of the time-series.
ICES assesses that fishing pressure on the stock is above FMSY and Fpa but below Flim, and spawning stock size is above MSY Btrigger and Blim.
ICES advises that when the proposed EU multiannual plan (MAP) is applied, catches in 2019 are between 422 tonnes and 562 tonnes The advised catch for 2019 represents an increase from previous advice due to an increase in SSB.


Criterion score: 0.25 info

No specific management objectives are known to ICES, there is no management plan for sole in the area.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.75 info

There is a directed gillnet fishery, mainly in Skaggerak, in spring and summer. 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. 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. Because of their durability, nets are made of nylon; if lost the net can continue to fish, a phenomenon known as ‘ghost fishing’. Minimum landing size for sole in EU waters is 24cm, Sole mature at 30cm.


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 Baltic Sea and Greater North Sea Ecoregions. Published 29 June 2018. Available at: (Accessed July 2018)
Ross and Isaac, 2004.The Net Effect. A WDCS Report for Greenpeace.
L Nunny, 2011. The Price of Fish: A review of cetacean bycatch in fisheries in the north-east Atantic. WDCS Report.