Sole, Dover sole, Common sole

Solea solea

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Gill or fixed net
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Western Channel
Stock detail — 7. e
Picture of Sole, Dover sole, Common sole

Sustainability rating two info

Sustainability overview

The stock level in this area, although at a low level compared to the 1980s, has been around MSY trigger for about 20 years and is now above that level. Fishing pressure is in accordance with that required to achieve the maximum sustainable yield. Avoid eating immature sole (less than 30cm) and fresh (not previously frozen) fish caught during the breeding season (April-June). If buying beam trawl-caught fish ask for fish from boats using technology to reduce discards such as Fully Documented Fisheries (FDF).


Sole is a right-eyed flatfish (eyes on the right hand side of the body) and belongs to the family of flatfishes known as Soleidae. It spawns in spring and early summer in shallow coastal water, from April to June in the southern North Sea, from May-June off the coast of Ireland and southern England, and as early as February in the Mediterranean. Common sole become sexually mature at 3-5 years, when 25-35cm long, the males being somewhat smaller than the females. It can attain lengths of 60-70cm and weigh 3kg.The maximum reported age is 26 years. Sole is a nocturnal predator and therefore more susceptible to capture by fisheries at night than in daylight.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0 info

Stock Area

Western Channel

Stock information

Fishing mortality (F) has been below FMSY since 2009. Spawning stock biomass (SSB) has been above MSY Btrigger since 2009. Recruitment (R) has been variable without an overall trend and is currently around the long-term geometric mean.
ICES assesses that fishing pressure on the stock is below FMSY, 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 1272 tonnes.


Criterion score: 0.25 info

A multi-annual plan has been established for western Channel sole, but ICES is yet to evaluate the plan. Although the plan has yet to be evaluated this is a positive step for the sustainable management of the fishery in the longer term. Management of the stock is mainly by Total Allowable Catch (TAC). In 2005, effort restrictions were implemented for beam trawlers to enforce the TAC and improve data quality. Since 2008 the UK has been enforcing a single-area licensing scheme which has been effective in reducing UK catches. A catch-quota scheme has been implemented for beam trawlers in the UK since 2010. In 2013, the UK fully documented fisheries (FDF) beam trawl catches represented 24% of the total UK beam trawl landings. The EU has proposed a multiannual management plan for the Western Waters, which is not yet finalised.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Gillnets can be very size selective for the target fish but can be unselective at the species level for both non-target fish and for mammals, birds and turtles. Harbour porpoise are highly prone to bycatch in bottom-set gillnets used to catch demersal species such as cod, turbot, hake, saithe, sole, skate and dogfish and tangle net fisheries used to capture flat fish and crustaceans due largely to their feeding habits on or near the seabed. Porpoises are generally taken as single animals. The number taken ranges from 1 in 20 hauls for skate to 1 in 54 hauls for cod. High levels of harbour porpoise bycatch have been recorded in the Celtic and North Sea. EU Regulation 821/2004 requires all community fishing vessels, greater than or equal to 12 metres, using drift, gill and tangle nets to use pingers - acoustic devices to deter marine mammal entanglement in nets. It also requires Member States to introduce observer schemes to monitor cetacean bycatch in certain fisheries, most notably in pelagic trawls, and the phase out of driftnet fisheries in the Baltic Sea. However, despite the pinger requirement coming into force in June 2005 in the North Sea, January 2006 in the Western Channel and January 2007 in the Eastern Channel, the UK fleet (along with the majority of European vessels) is still not applying this provision. The reason given is that the pingers available present too many practical and health and safety problems. This means that in the UK there are still no mitigation measures in place to reduce what is likely to remain the main conservation and welfare problem affecting cetaceans around our coasts. Other measures that maybe adopted to reduce the number of marine mammal causalities include reducing the length of the net and soak time, i.e. the period of time the net is in the sea. Because of their durability, nets are made of nylon; if lost the net can continue to fish, a phenomenon known as ‘ghost fishing’.


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.

Halibut, Atlantic (Farmed)
Halibut, Pacific
Sole, Dover sole, Common sole
Sole, Lemon
Turbot (Caught at sea)
Turbot (Farmed)


ICES, 2018. ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort Celtic Seas and Greater North Sea ecoregions. Published 29 June 2018. Available at: (Accessed July 2018)