Sole, Dover sole, Common sole

Solea solea

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Beam trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Celtic Sea
Stock detail — 7. f and g
Picture of Sole, Dover sole, Common sole

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

The stock is classified as healthy but fishing mortality is too high. Sole is mainly taken as bycatch in a beam trawl fishery. Avoid sourcing 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

Celtic Sea

Stock information

In recent years, the Spawning stock biomass (SSB) has been fluctuating around MSY Btrigger, and is in 2018 estimated to be just above MSY Btrigger. Fishing mortality (F) has been fluctuating above FMSY since 1979. The 2015 and 2017 recruitment are estimated to be well above average with the latter being the second highest in the time-series.
ICES assesses that fishing pressure on the stock is above FMSY and between Fpa and Flim and 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 864 tonnes.


Criterion score: 0.25 info

The EU has proposed a multiannual management plan for the Western Waters, which is not yet finalised. Catches are controlled by a Total Allowable Catch (TAC). The EU landings obligation applies to some fleets catching sole from 2017.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.75 info

Sole is mainly taken in a directed beam trawl fishery with plaice, rays, brill, turbot and anglerfish, as a bycatch. Beam trawling, especially using chain-mat gear, is known to have significant impact on seabed and benthic communities. It is also associated with high levels of discard. Whilst discards of sole are known to be low in the beam trawl fishery, there is substantial discarding of non-commercial species and commercial species of unmarketable size species. Some beam trawlers are experimenting with benthic drop-out panels that release about 75% of benthic invertebrates from the catches. However, a distinction should be made between the type of beam trawlers operating in the southern North Sea and those operating off the south coast of England (ICES Area V11), 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, best environmental practices and experimentation with Benthic Release Panels to reduce impact to bottom dwelling species. A recent study has shown that new net design can help to reduce discarding in the beam trawl fishery by over 50%. 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 Greater North Sea Ecoregion. Published 29 June 2018. Available at: (Accessed July 2018)