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 — Western Channel
Stock detail — 7. e
Picture of Sole, Dover sole, Common sole

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

The stock level in this area, although at a low level compared to the 1980s, has been around MSY trigger for about 20 years and is now above that level. Fishing pressure is in accordance with that required to achieve the maximum sustainable yield. Avoid eating immature sole (less than 30cm) and fresh (not previously frozen) fish caught during the breeding season (April-June). If buying beam trawl-caught fish ask for fish from boats using technology to reduce discards such as Fully Documented Fisheries (FDF).


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 info

Stock Area

Western Channel

Stock information

Fishing mortality (F) has been below FMSY since 2009. Spawning stock biomass (SSB) has been above MSY Btrigger since 2009. Recruitment (R) has been variable without an overall trend and is currently around the long-term geometric mean.
ICES assesses that fishing pressure on the stock is below FMSY, Fpa, and Flim, and that the 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 1272 tonnes.


Criterion score: 0.25 info

A multi-annual plan has been established for western Channel sole, but ICES is yet to evaluate the plan. Although the plan has yet to be evaluated this is a positive step for the sustainable management of the fishery in the longer term. Management of the stock is mainly by Total Allowable Catch (TAC). In 2005, effort restrictions were implemented for beam trawlers to enforce the TAC and improve data quality. Since 2008 the UK has been enforcing a single-area licensing scheme which has been effective in reducing UK catches. A catch-quota scheme has been implemented for beam trawlers in the UK since 2010. In 2013, the UK fully documented fisheries (FDF) beam trawl catches represented 24% of the total UK beam trawl landings. The EU has proposed a multiannual management plan for the Western Waters, which is not yet finalised.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.75 info

The principal gears used for this stock are beam trawls (63%), otter trawls (24%), and gillnets (8%). Otter trawls and gillnetters take sole mainly as a bycatch, although there is also a fishery targeting sole at spawning time. Otter trawls are less damaging to the marine environment in comparison with beam trawls. 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 Celtic Seas and Greater North Sea ecoregions. Published 29 June 2018. Available at: (Accessed July 2018)