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 — Southern Celtic Seas, Bay of Biscay
Stock detail

7, 8.a-b and 8.d

Picture of Monkfish, Anglerfish

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

The spawning-stock biomass (SSB) for this stock has been increasing since 2005 and is now estimated to be the highest in the time series and above MSY Btrigger. Fishing mortality (F) is now at FMSY. 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 info

Stock Area

Southern Celtic Seas, Bay of Biscay

Stock information

This is the first time since 2006 that ICES has provided advice based on an analytical assessment of this stock.
The spawning-stock biomass (SSB) for this stock has been increasing since 2005 and is now estimated to be the highest in the timeseries. Fishing mortality (F) has been above FMSY but has trended downwards since the mid-2000s and is now at FMSY. Recruitment has been variable over the time-series. ICES assesses that fishing pressure on the stock is at FMSY and below 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 31 042 tonnes.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

There is currently no agreed precautionary management plans for anglerfish (L. piscatorius) in this area. The two species (L.piscatorius and L. budegassa) are landed together with landings of L.piscatorius representing around 70% of the total. A single TAC covers both species and species-specific landings are estimated by ICES. 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.
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 most of the anglerfish catch consists of immature 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. Discards were estimated at 8% in 2017. The European Commission has proposed a multiannual management plan (MAP) for the Western Waters, which is not yet finalized.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.75 info

Of the total landings (25,634 tonnes) of anglerfish from this stock in 2017, 11% was beam trawled (4% in 2013). Beam trawling is associated with substantial damage to seabed flora and fauna and discarding of juvenile fish. A distinction can be made however 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 being 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
Cod, Pacific Cod
Coley, Saithe
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)


ICES (2018). ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort Bay of Biscay and the Iberian Coast, Celtic Seas, Greater North Sea, and Oceanic Northeast Atlantic ecoregions. Published 29 June 2018 (Accessed June 2018);
ICES (2016). ICES Advice 2016, Book 5