Monkfish, Anglerfish

Lophius piscatorius and Lophius budegassa

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Gill or fixed net
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — North Sea, West of Scotland and Rockall, Kattegat and Skagerrak
Stock detail — 4, 6, 3a
Picture of Monkfish, Anglerfish

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

The state of the monkfish stock in this area cannot be assessed precisely as it is not evaluated against biological reference points. However the stock has increased in size in the last three years and fishing pressure has been declining since 2012.
Monkfish or angler species are vulnerable to over-exploitation as they are long-lived and late to mature. Also the majority of the catch, particularly in trawl fisheries, consists of immature fish. To increase the sustainability of fish eaten from this and other stocks, ensure fish is above or equal to the size at which it matures - at least 70cms - and choose tangle netted fish where available.


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 cm, males at around 6 years at 50 cm. Females can attain a length of 2 m and a weight of 40 kg. 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 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

North Sea, West of Scotland and Rockall, Kattegat and Skagerrak

Stock information

The state of the stock in this area is unknown relative to reference points for biomass and fishing pressure. MSY proxies were examined by scientists, but no reliable proxy could be identified for this stock. The stock size indicator increased between 2011-2017 and decreased in 2018 from the historical high. The harvest rate has been relatively stable since 2014. ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, catches in 2019 should be no more than 31 690 tonnes (26 408 in 2018; 21 171 in 2017). Discard rate in 2017 was 3.4% of the total catch.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

No specific management objectives are known to ICES. The fisheries for the two anglerfish species are managed under a common total allowable catch (TAC). They are usually caught together and are not separated in the landings statistics. Management of the two species in this way is inadequate and prevents effective control of the single-species exploitation rates; it could potentially lead to overexploitation of either species. The two Total Allowable Catches (TACs) in this area do not match the stock unit. As a result of this mismatch, there is a potential for catches to exceed advice. 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.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

The average length or size of fish taken in gill or fixed nets is higher than in trawl catches. Gill and tangle netting for monkfish in the deep sea is not permitted beyond 200m in international waters and 600m in the European Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) in waters west of 4 degrees W. However, there are still areas (for example east of 4 degrees in the northern North Sea) where gillnetting and the use of tangle nets is permitted beyond 600m depth. Offshore gillnetting, conducted by ‘flag vessels’ targeting anglerfish west of Scotland and in the Celtic seas, is known to have problems with ghost fishing and of discarding of fish exposed to overly long soak times, making the fish unsuitable for human consumption. This can be eliminated by regular hauling and inspection of the gear. Gillnets and fixed nets can be very size selective, but can bycatch species such as sharks, cetaceans and other marine mammals. Reports indicate that there is concern regarding the bycatch of cetaceans, particularly harbour porpoise, by gillnets. One of the areas of most concern is off the South West of England, where areas of higher gillnet fishing effort coincide with areas of larger harbour porpoise populations. However, these reports are based on highly uncertain data which cannot indicate the likelihood of bycatch either causing populations to decline or preventing populations from recovering. Progress on this issue is being made in some areas, with Defra leading work to improve monitoring and mitigation of cetacean bycatch (“Hauling Up Solutions”). A pilot project trialling self-reporting of bycatch is taking place in Cornwall, potentially backed up by electronic monitoring and VMS in time, and trialling the use of pingers and other mitigation technologies, which are known to deter harbour porpoise from entanglement in nets. MCS is pleased to see this progress, but notes that if catch rates of harbour porpoise do not show a decrease then scoring of this capture method may be affected. Because of gillnets’ durability (they are made of nylon), if lost, they can continue to fish for several weeks before becoming tangled and bundled up, a phenomenon known as ‘ghost fishing’. However, static nets, as with all gear, represent an investment by fishermen, and therefore there are incentives to avoid losing or damaging gear.

Offshore gillnetting for anglerfish is known to be associated with discard problems following long soaking times, and ghost fishing. Anglerfish are subject to significant fishing mortality before attaining full maturity, and a high proportion of anglerfish catches consist of small fish, some of which is known to be discarded. This is less of a problem in gillnet fisheries as these are more selective than trawls by definition, particularly when using nets with large mesh sizes allowing juveniles to pass through. It is thought that the fishery has also expanded into deeper waters, areas believed to be a refuge for adult anglerfish, increasing the vulnerability of the stock to over-exploitation. However, recent restrictions on fishing effort and TACs for other deep-water species have also resulted in reduced fishing on monkfish in deeper waters. In addition, a number of closed areas, established on the Rockall and Hatton Banks in 2006 and Darwin Mounds to protect cold-water corals, potentially provide further incidental protection for spawning monkfish. The European Community and Norway are currently discussing the joint management of this shared stock.


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
Monkfish, Anglerfish
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)


ICES Advice, 2018. ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort Celtic Seas, Greater North Sea, and Oceanic Northeast Atlantic ecoregions. Published 31 October 2018. Available at: (Accessed December 2018)
Ross and Isaac, 2004.The Net Effect. A WDCS Report for Greenpeace
L Nunny, 2011.The Price of Fish: A review of cetacean bycatch in fisheries in the north-east Atlantic.