Monkfish, Anglerfish

Lophius piscatorius and Lophius budegassa

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
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, (white) and (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

Since the 1980s anglerfish have been caught in fisheries targeting the species. In the North Sea, anglerfish is caught as bycatch in demersal and Nephrops and Pandalus fisheries. Juvenile fish are easily retained by the minimum mesh size in force and often discarded. 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 fix a minimum weight of 500g for anglerfish. There is potential for damage to the seabed by trawling. Trawling is also associated with discarding of unwanted fish, i.e. undersized and/or non-quota and/or over-quota species. 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. 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 the Darwin Mounds to protect cold-water corals, potentially provide further incidental protection for spawning monkfish. Large areas near the Wyville-Thompson ridge are also closed to demersal trawling which affords protection for corals in these areas. 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
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)