Gurnard, Red

Aspitrigla cuculus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Northeast Atlantic
Stock detail — Subareas 3-8
Picture of Gurnard, Red

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

Gurnards are non-quota species and are often discarded due to low market demand. Increased consumption and demand for the species will alleviate the need to waste fish through the practice of discarding. Currently taken as bycatch in trawl fisheries, red gurnard is a fast growing fish which matures early at a large size. There is no detailed stock assessment for the species due to lack of data and sampling and total catches are unknown. More research is needed to obtain a better understanding of the impact of fishing on the stock and provide information for its sustainable management especially if the species is to become commercially targeted. Avoid eating immature fish (less than 25cm) and fresh (not previously frozen) fish caught during the spawning season (summer).


Gurnards belong to a group of fish known collectively as Trigliadae (sea robins). Grey gurnard occurs in the eastern Atlantic from Iceland, Norway, southern Baltic, and North Sea to southern Morocco, and Madeira Islands. It is also found in the Mediterranean and Black Seas. In the North Sea and in Skagerrak/Kattegat, grey gurnard is an abundant demersal species. They have a strong seasonal migration throughout the North Sea. It forms dense semi-pelagic aggregations in winter to the northwest of the Dogger Bank; in summer, grey gurnard are more widespread. The species is less abundant in the English Channel, the Celtic Sea, and in the Bay of Biscay. Although an offshore species, grey gurnard is occasionally found in shallow water. They spawn from April to August in deep water. The maximum life span rarely exceeds 6 years. They can attain a length of 45 cm, but are usually around 30 cm. Sexually mature at a length of about 18 cms and an age of 3 years (males) and about 24 cms and 4 years (females).Gurnards are able to grunt or growl by the use of muscles associated with the swim bladder, and this is believed to aid in keeping schools together.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Stock Area

Northeast Atlantic

Stock information

Of the six species known in northern European waters, red gurnard is most commonly exploited as a food fish. Although widely distributed throughout the Atlantic it is only locally abundant.
Currently the stock in subareas 3-8 is treated as a single unit. There is limited data available to evaluate stock trends or status of red gurnard and reference points for fishing mortality and stock biomass are not defined. Landings information is of limited usefulness due to several countries reporting landings of “mixed gurnards”. Reporting at a species level has improved since 2006, and landings have been between 3600 t and 5100 t.<br
Red gurnard is also considered an under-utilised species. Under-utilised species are ones that fishermen don’t catch their full quota of; or they catch them but then discard the fish because no one wants to buy them. Centre for Environmental, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas) have compiled a list of these species using quota and discard information, expert advice and local knowledge and chose around 50 under-utilised species to study. To determine their sensitivity to over-fishing Cefas has developed a system, the Relative Life History Sensitivity Analysis, to study the risk. It uses biological information like growth and breeding strategies to see how increased fishing pressure might damage each species. They then ranked the species by how tolerant they are to being over-fished. For a full list of the species that are most under-utilised AND most tolerant of over-fishing and therefore the best ones for consumers to consider choosing see


Criterion score: 0.5 info

There is currently no management for any of the gurnard species in the EU - no minimum landing size, effort, seasonal, temporal or technical regulations for the species. For management purposes, information is required on landings, stock structure and biological data in order to achieve their sustainable exploitation in the longer term. Neither is fishing on the species managed through quota or TAC for the species in the ICES area and it is not clear whether there should be one or several management units. Considering its strong site fidelity, natal homing and high residency, future assessment and management should identify and treat separate spawning aggregations independently.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Red gurnards are mainly caught by demersal trawlers in mixed fisheries, mostly in Divisions VIId to k and VIIIa,b and in Division IVc. Misidentification continues to be a major problem in estimating landings of red gurnard. In addition discarding is estimated to be high. A preliminary analysis by ICES scientists of catches in the English Channel has shown that discarding is above 50%. There are no technical measures specifically dedicated to red gurnard or other gurnard species. There is a potential for damage to the seabed by trawling. Trawling is also associated with discarding of unwanted fish, i.e. undersized and/or non-quota and/or over-quota species. Red gurnard matures at 25cm and efforts should be made to select fish at, or above, that size.


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.

Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler
Bass, seabass (Farmed)
Bream, Gilthead (Farmed)
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Coley, Saithe
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Monkfish, Anglerfish
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)


ICES Advice 2017.
ICES Advice 2014, Book 9