Brill

Scophthalmus rhombus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Beam trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat, English Channel
Stock detail — IV, IIIa and VIId
Picture of Brill

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

Management of turbot and brill under a combined species Total Allowable Catch prevents effective control of the single-species exploitation rates and could lead to the overexploitation of either species. Landings of brill derive mainly from the North Sea where it is taken as bycatch in predominantly beam trawl fisheries for plaice and sole.

Biology

Brill, like turbot, belongs to the family Scophthalmidae, a group of left-eyed flatfish (they lie on their right side and both eyes are on the left). Similarly, brill are distributed from southern Iceland, down the coast of western Europe, including the Baltic, and into the Mediterranean and Black Seas. Brill is a shallow-water fish (between 5 - 70m) mainly found in areas close inshore and even in estuaries. Mature fish tend to inhabit offshore areas and are rarely observed inshore. Brill prefer sandy bottoms, but are also found on gravel and muddy grounds. They can attain a length of 75cm, but usually no more than 55cm, and a weight of around 2.5kg for females (which are larger). Length at first maturity is 33-40cm, with females fully mature at about 4 years and 40cm. Maximum reported age is 6 years. They spawn in spring and summer. Larger brill (> 40cm) are primarily piscivorous. Small brill feed on small benthic fishes, sandeels, gobies, anchovy, and crabs; with increasing length the diet moves to small gadoids. Brill grows relatively fast and generally reaches a certain length faster (at younger ages) than flatfish, such as sole and plaice, in the same areas.

Stock information

Stock Area

North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat, English Channel

Stock information

Scientific advice for this stock is based on a commercial biomass index used as an indicator of stock size. The biomass index has been gradually increasing over the time-series with moderate interannual variability. It has been higher in the last two years than in the three previous years. ICES advises that when the precautionary approach is applied, catches should be no more than 3170 tonnes in each of the years 2018 and 2019. If discard rates do not change from the average of the last three years (2014-2016), this implies landings of no more than 2943 tonnes.

Management

No specific management objectives are known to ICES and there is no management plan for brill in the area. An EU total allowable catch (TAC) is set for EU waters of ICES Division IIa and Subarea IV together with turbot. Brill is mainly a bycatch species in fisheries for plaice and sole. ICES suggests TACs may not be an appropriate management tool for bycatch species such as brill. Management of brill and turbot under a combined species TAC prevents effective control of the single-species exploitation rates. A TAC combining two high-value species (turbot and brill) under a low TAC can, in some instances, lead to highgrading of the lesser-valued species (brill) or to discarding of the smaller, marketable size classes of brill. Discarding is related to the size of the fish and the size of the TAC. Subsequently, since there is a low TAC, producer organizations have agreements on minimum landing size/weight at the national level, which has likely resulted in increased discarding.

Capture Information

Brill is mainly taken as a bycatch species in Dutch and Belgian beam trawl fisheries for plaice and sole, primarily in the North Sea. There is minor fishery for the species using gill nets, or similar static net gear, by UK and French vessels. The North Sea accounts for almost half of landings of brill from the northeast Atlantic. The English Channel is the second most productive area for brill. There is no official EU minimum landing size, although Minimum Landing Sizes (MLS) have been introduced by different authorities. The most frequently applied MLS is 30cm (e.g. in Belgium, Baltic, Cornwall), although even this size could be considered immature in many fisheries.

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.

Dab
Halibut, Atlantic (Farmed)
Halibut, Pacific
Megrim
Plaice
Sole, Dover sole, Common sole
Turbot (Farmed)

References

ICES Advice 2017, http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/bll.27.3a47de.pdf