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 — IIIa, IV, VI
Picture of Monkfish, Anglerfish

Sustainability rating four 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.

Biology

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

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 . The stock size indicator however shows an increase in the last three years (2014-2016). The relative harvest rate has been declining since 2012.
ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, catches in 2017 should be no more than 22 007 tonnes. If discard rates do not change from the average of the last three years (2013-2015), this implies landings of no more than 21 171 tonnes and a discard rate of 4%.

Management

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. 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

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 to overly long soak times, making the fish unsuitable for human consumption. This can be eliminated by regular hauling and inspection of the gear. Bycatch of marine mammals and other non-target species can be problematic in fixed-net fisheries. However, use of management measures, including acoustic devices called 'pingers', can help reduce bycatch of marine mammals. See Fishing Methods for more details. 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 deepwater 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.

Alternatives

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
Haddock
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Japanese amberjack, Yellowtail or Seriola
Pollack or Lythe
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Pouting or Bib
Sturgeon (Farmed)
Tilapia
Whiting

References

ICES Advice 2016, Book 5 http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2016/2016/ang-ivvi.pdf;
The Net Effect. A WDCS Report for Greenpeace. Ross and Isaac (2004);
The Price of Fish: A review of cetacean bycatch in fisheries in the north-east Atantic. L Nunny (2011)