Sole, Lemon

Microstomus kitt

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Beam trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat, Eastern English Channel
Stock detail — 4, 3.a and 7.d
Picture of Sole, Lemon

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

The fishery for Lemon sole is generally unmanaged in EU waters and there is no minimum landing size. The exceptions for this are in areas IV and IIa where there is a mixed precautionary total allowable catch (TAC), and in Cornwall where a Minimum Landing Size of 25cm is enforced by local Cornish IFCA byelaw. Choose seine caught fish where possible, as this is currently the most sustainable capture method for the species.


Lemon sole is a widely distributed flatfish which is found in shelf waters of the North Atlantic, from the White Sea and Iceland southward to the Bay of Biscay. Lemon sole appears to prefer sandy and gravelly substrates, living deeper and at higher salinity and lower temperature than plaice or sole. Sexual maturity occurs in males at 3-4 years and at 4-6 years in females. Lemon sole may live for about 17 years and can attain lengths of over 60 cm. They spawn in spring and summer, April to August.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0 info

Stock Area

North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat, Eastern English Channel

Stock information

In 2017, for the first time, fishing pressure and stock size status indicators are based on analyses (Surplus Production in Continuous Time (SPiCT)) of data which includes data from the Dutch and Scottish surveys that have been reporting lemon sole consistently since 1968. Analysis suggests that fishing mortality is below and stock size above proxies of the MSY reference points.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

Lemon sole is mainly a bycatch species and as such the fishery is currently largely unmanaged. The only management of the fishery is under a combined total allowable catch (TAC) with witch. Scientists are concerned this prevents effective control of single species exploitation rates and could potentially leading to overfishing of either species. A single-species TAC could be more appropriate.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.75 info

Lemon sole are generally taken as bycatch in mixed fisheries by beam (31%) and otter (61%) trawlers, seiners, 3%, and gillnetters, 2%. There is no minimum landing size set for lemon sole in EU waters. The size at maturity for the species ranges between 20-30 cm, with all fish above 27 cm in the North Sea being mature. In the Cornwall Sea Fisheries District, a Minimum Landing Size of 25 cm is enforced, which is likely to represent a vast majority of mature fish. Trawling is associated with benthic impact, bycatch and discards.


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. 2017. ICES Advice. (Accessed 13 November 2017)
ICES Advice 2015, Book 6