Gurnard, Yellow or Tub

Triglia or Chelidonichthys lucerna

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — All Areas
Stock detail — 1 to 9
Picture of Gurnard, Yellow or Tub

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

Gurnards are often not sorted by species when they are landed. They are normally just landed under the general category gurnardss. When gurnards are landed, their species is not recorded. Therefore, we donat know how much tub gurnard is caught. Therefore, their stock status is unknown. There is no direct management for the species. Instead they are protected by the general management in the area where they are caught e.g. management measures to protect cod. Demersal trawling is generally not very selective and may capture endangered, threatened and protected species. Avoid eating immature fish and during their breeding season (May to July).


Gurnards belong to a group of fish known collectively as Trigliadae (sea robins). Tub gurnards have three isolated rays on their pectoral fin/ wings which act as legs to allow them to rest and locate food. 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.

Tub gurnard are the largest of all the gurnards, growing up to 75cm in length, but more commonly found at lengths of 20-30cm. They live up to 15 years old and mature at ~28cm and 2.8 years old.

Their bodies can be various colours (yellowy or pink, orange, bright red or brown) and they have a brilliant blue lining on their pectoral fins. They are distributed across the Eastern Atlantic from Norway to Cape Blanc (along the African coast) and the Mediterranean and Black seas. Studies have shown that gurnard enters the southern North Sea in spring, leaving in the autumn. In recent years, there is a trend of gurnard remaining in the North Sea over winter. Tub gurnard is abundant in inshore waters of 20-150 m depth, moving to deeper waters (80m) in winter. Smaller tub gurnards frequent shallower waters (2-20 m). Tub gurnard spawns from May to July in the Celtic Sea. Younger fish migrate to coastal waters at the end of summer. Juveniles and smaller tub gurnards feed on small crustaceans and larger gurnards feed on small fish and some cephalopods.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.75 info

The stock status of tub gurnard is unknown. Relatively little data are collected for gurnards, and even less data are collected for tub gurnard as they are often misidentified with the red gurnard.

French trawl fisheries and research vessel data collect the most useful data for the species. Their results indicate a fluctuation in abundance without trend. There has been some evidence of increasing numbers overwintering in the North Sea in recent years. The studies suggest that gurnard populations are relatively robust. Another survey (CGFS survey) show that the population is generally stable.

Landings data are collected for gurnards, however, they are often just named gurnardsa, rather than by their specific species. They also represent a very small proportion of landings in each of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England (<1%) and are normally caught as bycatch in mixed demersal fisheries for flatfish and roundfish. Therefore, there is a lack of information for the species.

Discarding rates of gurnards is thought to be high: red gurnard discard rates vary between 14-94% for some areas. There are a lack of data collected tub gurnard discards and their survival rates are unknown.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

Tub gurnard is managed through the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). There are no technical measures specifically dedicated to tub gurnard (e.g. minimum sizes or quotas). Instead, tub are subject to the general regulations applied to the area where they are harvested. This generally includes effort controls and technical measures, including regulations enforced under the long-term management plans for cod, sole and plaice, effort ceilings for vessels larger than 15 m (under the western waters effort control regulations). Though it is unknown how effective these are at maintaining gurnard populations.

Since Tub gurnard are caught mainly in the channel and north sea, they are caught by a mixture of vessel nationalities and therefore, overseen and mandated by EU law. This aims to deter illegal fishing. Vessels over 12m are required to have Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), electronic logbook reporting, reporting of sales notes, inspection on land and at sea. Enforcement is carried out through UK through the IFCAs (inshore waters of 0-6nm only), Marine Scotland and the MMO. There is no evidence of systematic non-compliance.

There is no assessment of the status of the tub gurnard stocks, though there are some biomass data for the species. ICES have recommended tub gurnard as a potential commercial species in the northeast Atlantic and has advised that their landings and discard rates need monitoring to assess their stock status. Data has been collected on size/age-structure and patterns of growth, maturity and mortality in localised studies, but these have not yet been used to determine the stock status. National programs have collected data through observers at sea since 2003 on general demersal fleets.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Tub gurnard are generally caught as bycatch in mixed demersal fisheries for flatfish and roundfish. Other associated retained catch may include species such as nephrops, monks / anglers, dabs, turbot, lemon sole, saithe, turbot. Other associated discarded catch may include a mixture of crabs, lesser spotted dogfish, nursehound, smelt, dragonet, and some other invertebrates e.g. urchin, Ocean quahog, and some skates and rays. There may be occasional interactions with ETP may occur: angelsharks and common skate have been depleted through incidental capture in trawl, and further protected skate and ray species are occasionally reported. Though protected species are not allowed to be landed, some skate and ray species of concern are not sufficiently protected under a management plan.

Tub gurnard inhabits sand, muddy sand or gravel bottoms.

Although the ecosystem role of tub gurnard is generally unknown in the north sea, grey gurnard is a predator of commercially important demersal stocks (including cod, whiting, haddock, sandeel, and Norway pout) in the North Sea. The grey gurnardas recent steep population increases have caused 50% of the predation mortality of young North Sea cod and whiting (<1 year old).


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
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Cod, Pacific Cod
Coley, Saithe
Hake, European
Monkfish, Anglerfish, White
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Spurdog, Spiny Dogfish, Dogfish, Rock Salmon or Flake
Sturgeon (Farmed)



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