Monkfish, Anglerfish

Lophius piscatorius and Lophius budegassa

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Beam trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Southwest Stock - West of Ireland, English Channel, Bristol Channel, South East Ireland
Stock detail

VIIb-k, VIIIa,b, d

Picture of Monkfish, Anglerfish

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

The state of the stock with respect to reference points in this area is unknown, but thought to be increasing in the long-term. Total catches are also unknown. Monkfish or angler species are vulnerable to over-exploitation as they are long-lived and late to mature. Also of concern is that the majority of the catch, particularly in trawl fisheries, consists of immature fish. To increase the sustainability of fish eaten from this stock, ensure fish is above or equal to the size at which it matures - at least 70cms.


Anglerfish are so called because they possess a fishing lure at the tip of a specially modified dorsal ray, with which they can entice prey. They are a long-lived species. Maximum reported age is 24 years. Females mature at 9-11 years at about 70 - 90 cms, males at around 6 years at 50 cms. Females can attain a length of 2 m and a weight of 40 kgs. Males rarely grow beyond 1m. Two species occur in most areas, L.piscatorius (white) and L.budegassa (black-bellied), although catches are almost exclusively of the former. There is general consensus amongst scientists that there is one stock of L.piscatorius and that this spawns in spring and early summer, in deep water off the edge of the continental shelf to the west of Scotland, in waters down to 1,000 m. Eggs are released in a buoyant, gelatinous ribbon or ‘egg veil’ that may measure more than 10 m in length. Anglerfish are also found in coastal waters.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

Stock Area

Southwest Stock - West of Ireland, English Channel, Bristol Channel, South East Ireland

Stock information

There is no analytical assessment available for this stock and so reference points are not defined. The main cause of this is lack of data, specifically on discards, and other parameters, e.g. ageing. Efforts are required to obtain reliable estimates of total catches (landings and discards) in order to improve the assessment. The perception of the stock of white anglerfish has not changed. Biomass shows a variable but overall increasing trend over time. There has been a steady decrease in fishing effort since the early 1990s. Stock and exploitation status is based on reference point proxies until 2014 (fishing pressure) or 2015 (stock size); no update analysis is available for the most recent year.
Fishing mortality (up to 2015) is unknown and stock biomass (up to 2015) is above the MSY B trigger proxy. ICES advises that landings in 2017 and 2018 may be increased by 20% and should be no more than 26,691 tonnes for L.picatorius. ICES cannot quantify the corresponding total catches.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

There are no specific management objectives known to ICES. The two species are landed together with landings of L.piscatorius representing 70% of the total. Management of the two anglerfish species under a combined TAC is inadequate and prevents effective control of single-species exploitation rates and could potentially lead to over-exploitation of either. Discards are known to take place. Although they cannot be quantified they are estimated at more than 5%. ICES recommend that management for L. piscatoruis and L. budegassa should be combined, in conjunction with other species that are caught in this fishery (multi-species management). Anglerfish are subject to significant fishing mortality before attaining full maturity, and the majority of the anglerfish catch consists of young fish. Because of its body shape, large head and jaw, the introduction of a minimum landing size for these species is not considered a useful or practical management measure. However, recent EU marketing standards fixed a minimum weight of 500g for anglerfish. Research surveys have shown an apparent increase in fish on fishing grounds, meaning that where the quota is restrictive, discarding will likely increase. Unreported landings in some fisheries in this area are thought to be substantial and there are indications that discarding of small anglerfish has increased in recent years. The C&WSTG English Channel megrim, monk and sole beam trawl fishery was under full assessment against the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard but withdrew in December 2014.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.75 info

Of the total landings of anglerfish from this stock, 11% was beam trawled in 2015 (4% in 2013). Beam trawling is associated with substantial damage to seabed flora and fauna and discarding of juvenile fish. Because of its body shape, large head and jaw, the introduction of a minimum landing size for these species is not considered a useful or practical management measure. However, recent EU marketing standards fixed a minimum weight of 500g for anglerfish. A distinction can 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 VII), 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) in vessels with engines of 800-2,500hp. By comparison, a significant number of vessels operating in Area VII 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. Trawling is also one of the main fishing methods associated with discarding of unwanted fish, i.e. undersized and/or non-quota and/or over-quota species. However, a recent study in the southwest has shown that discards can be reduced by over 50% in some cases, by using new, innovative fishing gear. In the UK, fishermen and scientists are leading the way by working in partnership to reduce discarding. In 2009-10, an innovative partnership between scientists and volunteers from the Devon beam trawl fleet - nicknamed ‘Project 50%’ - was set-up with an aim to help to protect fish stocks by reducing the amount of commercial juvenile fish discarded overboard by over 50%. Results from voluntary trials show an unprecedented overall (both commercial and non-commercial) reduction of 52%, thanks to the development of modified fishing nets. Before the project, the Devon beam trawl fleet had one of the highest discard rates of English and Welsh fisheries.


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
Japanese amberjack, Yellowtail or Seriola
Pollack or Lythe
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Pouting or Bib
Sturgeon (Farmed)


ICES Advice 2016, Book 5