Merlangius merlangus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Seine net
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Southern Celtic Sea and English Channel
Stock detail — VIIb,c, e-k
Picture of Whiting

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

The stock in this area is healthy but fishing pressure is too high. Scientists are calling for measures to improve gear selection to help reduce discard rates. Ask for fish from trawlers using approved methods to improve selectivity and reduce discards. Avoid eating fish below the size at which it matures, 30 cms, and during its breeding season, January to July.


Whiting is a slender bodied, sandy, blue-green coloured fish with conspicuous white sides and belly, silvery when alive. A member of the gadoid family, the same as cod and haddock, it occurs throughout northeast Atlantic waters at a wide range of depths, from shallow inshore waters to depths of 200m. They mature at an age of 2-3 years and at a length of about 30 cms. The average landed length is usually around 30-40 cms, however whiting can grow up to 70 cm and 3 kg. Whiting breeds between January and July, but mostly in spring. The maximum reported age is 20 years.

Stock information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Stock Area

Southern Celtic Sea and English Channel

Stock information

The spawning stock biomass (SSB) has decreased since 2012 but remains above MSY Btrigger. Fishing mortality (F) has been below FMSY since 2008, but increased in recent years and is just above FMSY in 2017. Recruitment has been relatively stable, with the exception of three strong year classes with the most recent one occurring in 2013. ICES assesses that fishing pressure on the stock is above FMSY, but below Fpa and Flim, and 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 15 841 tonnes (19 429 in 2018).


Criterion score: 0.5 info

Specific management measures are required to reduce bycatch and discarding in order to maximise stock productivity. This could be achieved by effort reduction, spatial and temporal changes or closures in the fishery based on whiting abundance, nursery areas or technical measures such as escape panels, separator panels, square mesh and variations in mesh size over the net. There is currently an area in the western Irish Sea closed to whitefish fishing to protect cod, however the effects of this upon the whiting stock are unclear. Despite the introduction of square mesh panels during 2012 the volume of discards has remained high and there is not yet evidence of improvements in selectivity in the fishery. The advice from ICES is that “a square mesh panel of at least 120 mm should be introduced for the nephrops fleet and a minimum mesh size of 100 mm with a square mesh panel of at least 110 mm for all other fleets”. The North Western Waters Regional Advisory Council (NWWRAC) have recently supported the introduction of square mesh panels in all trawl fisheries operating in ICES Divisions VIIfg. There is a mismatch between the assessment area and the TAC area because Division 7.d is not considered part of this stock and is assessed separately with Area 4 whiting. ICES recommends that the TAC area correspond to the assessment area. Vessels targeting whiting have been subject to the landings obligation since 2016. Other demersal fleets, in which whiting is a bycatch species, are not currently under the landings obligation.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

Celtic Sea whiting are mainly taken in mixed-species fisheries targeting cod, haddock, and whiting with otter trawls and seine nets using >100mm codend mesh. Trawling is associated with benthic impacts and high levels of bycatch. Discarding of this stock is substantial and highly variable (9-82% by weight and 18-90% by number of total catch) and often due to the low market value of the species. Despite the introduction of square mesh panels during 2012 the volume of discards has remained high and there is not yet evidence of improvements in selectivity in the fishery. Discard rates for 2017 are estimated at 28% (32% in 2016) of the catch with otter trawls accounting for 61% of discards and seine nets 21%.


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
Cod, Pacific Cod
Coley, Saithe
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
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. whg.27.7b-ce-k. Version 2: 4 September 2018. Available at: http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2018/2018/whg.27.7b-ce-k.pdf (Accessed November 2018).