Gurnard, Yellow or Tub

Triglia or Chelidonichthys lucerna

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Gill or fixed net
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — All Areas
Stock detail — 1 to 9
Picture of Gurnard, Yellow or Tub

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

Gurnards are often not sorted by species when they are landed. They are normally just landed under the general category gurnards.When gurnards are landed, their species is not recorded. Therefore, we donat know how much tub gurnard is caught. Therefore, their stock status is unknown. There is no direct management for the species. Instead they are protected by the general management in the area where they are caught e.g. management measures to protect cod. Gill nets generally present a low risk to the habitat, however, they may capture endangered, threatened and protected species. However, there are some management measures in place to reduce to the risk to non-target species, particularly cetaceans. Avoid eating immature fish and during their breeding season (May to July).


Gurnards belong to a group of fish known collectively as Trigliadae (sea robins). Tub gurnards have three isolated rays on their pectoral fin/ wings which act as legs to allow them to rest and locate food. Gurnards are able to grunt or growl by the use of muscles associated with the swim bladder, and this is believed to aid in keeping schools together.

Tub gurnard are the largest of all the gurnards, growing up to 75cm in length, but more commonly found at lengths of 20-30cm. They live up to 15 years old and mature at ~28cm and 2.8 years old.

Their bodies can be various colours (yellowy or pink, orange, bright red or brown) and they have a brilliant blue lining on their pectoral fins. They are distributed across the Eastern Atlantic from Norway to Cape Blanc (along the African coast) and the Mediterranean and Black seas. Studies have shown that gurnard enters the southern North Sea in spring, leaving in the autumn. In recent years, there is a trend of gurnard remaining in the North Sea over winter. Tub gurnard is abundant in inshore waters of 20-150 m depth, moving to deeper waters (80m) in winter. Smaller tub gurnards frequent shallower waters (2-20 m). Tub gurnard spawns from May to July in the Celtic Sea. Younger fish migrate to coastal waters at the end of summer. Juveniles and smaller tub gurnards feed on small crustaceans and larger gurnards feed on small fish and some cephalopods.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.75 info

The stock status of tub gurnard is unknown. Relatively little data are collected for gurnards, and even less data are collected for tub gurnard as they are often misidentified with the red gurnard.

French trawl fisheries and research vessel data collect the most useful data for the species. Their results indicate a fluctuation in abundance without trend. There has been some evidence of increasing numbers overwintering in the North Sea in recent years. The studies suggest that gurnard populations are relatively robust. Another survey (CGFS survey) show that the population is generally stable.

Landings data are collected for gurnards, however, they are often just named gurnardsa, rather than by their specific species. They also represent a very small proportion of landings in each of Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England (<1%) and are normally caught as bycatch in mixed demersal fisheries for flatfish and roundfish. Therefore, there is a lack of information for the species.

Discarding rates of gurnards is thought to be high: red gurnard discard rates vary between 14-94% for some areas. There are a lack of data collected tub gurnard discards and their survival rates are unknown.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

Tub gurnard is managed through the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). There are no technical measures specifically dedicated to tub gurnard (e.g. minimum sizes or quotas). Instead, tub are subject to the general regulations applied to the area where they are harvested. This generally includes effort controls and technical measures, including regulations enforced under the long-term management plans for cod, sole and plaice, effort ceilings for vessels larger than 15 m (under the western waters effort control regulations). Though it is unknown how effective these are at maintaining gurnard populations.

Since Tub gurnard are caught mainly in the channel and north sea, they are caught by a mixture of vessel nationalities and therefore, overseen and mandated by EU law. This aims to deter illegal fishing. Vessels over 12m are required to have Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS), electronic logbook reporting, reporting of sales notes, inspection on land and at sea. Enforcement is carried out through UK through the IFCAs (inshore waters of 0-6nm only), Marine Scotland and the MMO. There is no evidence of systematic non-compliance.

There is no assessment of the status of the tub gurnard stocks, though there are some biomass data for the species. ICES have recommended tub gurnard as a potential commercial species in the northeast Atlantic and has advised that their landings and discard rates need monitoring to assess their stock status. Data has been collected on size/age-structure and patterns of growth, maturity and mortality in localised studies, but these have not yet been used to determine the stock status. National programs have collected data through observers at sea since 2003 on general demersal fleets.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Data collected through the EU Habitats Directive show that harbour porpoises, small sharks (smooth-hound, lesser spotted dogfish for example) can become entangled in gillnets. Of concern, particularly in North Cornish waters, are the incidental entanglement of seabirds.

Although bycatches of harbour porpoises occur in this fishery, their overall catch relative to the estimated populations, is not expected to be of concern. To mitigate the risk of entanglement, European vessels over >12 m in length are required to use pingersa on gillnets. However, this is not required on smaller vessels. Since 2013, the UK have reported to be fully-implementing the use of acoustic deterrent devices (ADDs). The Royal Navy and enforcement officers carry out at-sea inspections and have found no infringements were detected in 2013, but some in 2014. The Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans on the Baltic, Northeast Atlantic, Irish and North Seas (ASCOBANS) recommended monitoring and mitigation in the UK tangle and gillnet fisheries in the southwest of England in their 2017 report. ASCOBANS has agreed a maximum bycatch limit of 1.7% of the population of harbour porpoise.

Bycatch can also include skates and rays: there is little management to protect the skate and ray species but their landings are monitored. There is also no ETP species management. EC regulations state that landed catches taken from bottom set nets must include at least 70% of specified target species, therefore, IFCAs ensure that gillnets commonly used in fisheries do not exceed bycatch requirements.

Cornwall IFCA have implemented new measures in 2018 to ban netting for sea fish in its rivers and estuaries which will protect juvenile bass and mullet.

The main impacts that gillnets may cause to the habitat are their anchoring to the sea floor and ghost fishing when gillnets are lost through bad weather. Gillnets can last up to a year before they deteriorate and therefore, can damage and kill sea life and habitats. However, the rate of permanent gillnet loss has been shown to be low (around one percent), due to positioning systems and efforts to recover lost and expensive gear, particularly among the under 10 m fishing fleet. VMS data are used to collect data on habitat interactions for vessels over 12m, along with surveillance data, however, this does not include data for the smaller vessels in inshore waters.

Although the ecosystem role of tub gurnard is generally unknown in the north sea, grey gurnard is a predator of commercially important demersal stocks (including cod, whiting, haddock, sandeel, and Norway pout) in the North Sea. The grey gurnardas recent steep population increases have caused 50% of the predation mortality of young North Sea cod and whiting (<1 year old).


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
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Cod, Pacific Cod
Coley, Saithe
Hake, European
Monkfish, Anglerfish, White
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Spurdog, Spiny Dogfish, Dogfish, Rock Salmon or Flake
Sturgeon (Farmed)



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ASCOBANS. 2017. Cetacean Bycatch Monitoring and Mitigation Under EC Regulation 812/2004 in the Northeast Atlantic, North Sea and Baltic Sea - Interim Report Cetacean. AC23/Inf.6.1.c. Available at:

Southall, T. 2016. MSC Pre-Assessment for North Sea Plaice fishery (Seine, Demersal Trawl and Beam trawl). Prepared for Project UK Fisheries Improvements. Available at:

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British Sea Fishing. 2010. Gurnard. Available at: [Accessed 12.02.18].

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