Monkfish, Anglerfish

Lophius piscatorius and Lophius budegassa

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Trammel net
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Southern Celtic Seas, Bay of Biscay
Stock detail

7, 8.a-b and 8.d

Picture of Monkfish, Anglerfish

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

The spawning-stock biomass (SSB) for this stock has been increasing since 2005 and is now estimated to be the highest in the time series and above MSY Btrigger. Fishing mortality (F) is now at FMSY. Monkfish or angler species are vulnerable to over-exploitation as they are long-lived and late to mature. Also of concern is that the majority of the catch, particularly in trawl fisheries, consists of immature fish. To increase the sustainability of fish eaten from this stock, ensure fish is above or equal to the size at which it matures - at least 70cms.


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 cms, males at around 6 years at 50 cms. Females can attain a length of 2 m and a weight of 40 kgs. Males rarely grow beyond 1m. Two species occur in most areas, L.piscatorius (white) and L.budegassa (black-bellied), although catches are almost exclusively of the former. There is general consensus amongst scientists that there is one stock of L.piscatorius 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 info

Stock Area

Southern Celtic Seas, Bay of Biscay

Stock information

This is the first time since 2006 that ICES has provided advice based on an analytical assessment of this stock.
The spawning-stock biomass (SSB) for this stock has been increasing since 2005 and is now estimated to be the highest in the timeseries. Fishing mortality (F) has been above FMSY but has trended downwards since the mid-2000s and is now at FMSY. Recruitment has been variable over the time-series. ICES assesses that fishing pressure on the stock is at FMSY and below 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 31 042 tonnes.


Criterion score: 0.75 info

There is currently no agreed precautionary management plans for anglerfish (L. piscatorius) in this area. The two species (L.piscatorius and L. budegassa) are landed together with landings of L.piscatorius representing around 70% of the total. A single TAC covers both species and species-specific landings are estimated by ICES. Management of the two anglerfish species under a combined TAC is inadequate and prevents effective control of single-species exploitation rates and could potentially lead to over-exploitation of either.
ICES recommend that management for L. piscatoruis and L. budegassa should be combined, in conjunction with other species that are caught in this fishery (multi-species management).

Anglerfish are subject to significant fishing mortality before attaining full maturity, and most of the anglerfish catch consists of immature fish. 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 fixed a minimum weight of 500g for anglerfish. Discards were estimated at 8% in 2017. The European Commission has proposed a multiannual management plan (MAP) for the Western Waters, which is not yet finalized.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Fishermen using tangle nets, are a more selective fishing method than trawling, to catch monkfish (or anglerfish) and turbot. Nets have a minimum mesh size of 220 mm (or 10.5”) so only land tails from bigger fish (fish are landed whole but it is the tail that is of commercial interest and value). Larger meshes are used voluntarily. Trammel/tangle meshes used are 263mm (minimum mandatory size is 220mm).

Tangle nets differ from other static nets in that the nylon monofilament netting panels are hung very loosely. The footrope is weighted but the headline buoyancy is usually achieved by the inherent floatation of the polypropylene headrope. The nets then lie loosely on the seabed and fish are caught by tangling rather than meshing as is the case with gill nets, relying upon the sheer volume of netting hung on the headropes and footropes to achieve a tangling effect. The overall length of a typical fleet or tier (nets joined together) of nets is around 1000m for an inshore vessel. Tangle nets are used from early April until November all around the Cornish Peninsula. White fish, mainly monkfish, are tangled in April and May but are also caught in small quantities at other times of the year.

Demersal static nets can be made highly size selective for their main target species, although selectivity for whitefish size in tangle nets is not as marked as it is in gill nets. The large mesh size however is countered by the extremely loose setting of the net which makes entanglement more effective. Bycatch is mainly of Brown and Spider crab. De clawing of crustaceans (principally edible crabs) is regulated by EU legislation (850/98) and local bye-laws, to deter targeting crabs using static gears.

Ghost fishing’ can be defined as the mortality of fish and other species that takes place in lost or abandoned fishing gear, which continue to catch fish and crustaceans as well birds and marine mammals. Because static gears are left in the sea to catch fish for a period, the risk of ghost fishing is higher for these gears. Tangle netting involves leaving the nets to fish for a period of time, usually up to a maximum of 2 days for monkfish to avoid spoiling. Excessive, more than 2 days, soak times reduces monkfish quality. Soak time is not controlled and in periods of bad weather the time may be longer which results in wasteful rotting of catch.

Bycatch of marine mammals and other non-target species can be problematic in fixed-net (gillnet) fisheries. However, use of management measures, including acoustic devices called ‘pingers’, can help reduce bycatch of marine mammals. Pingers are now mandatory for all vessels larger than 12m outside 6nm.

Interactions with seals who allegedly steal fish from nets and then can also become entangled themselves is problematic as no practical method for deterring them from nets is currently available.

The effects on seabed habitats of this gear have not been studied extensively. However, seabed disturbance is likely to be low, but there may be a small risk of snagging of more delicate organisms. In order to protect vulnerable species the EU has banned tangle netting below 600 m depth, and restricted its use between 600 and 200 m depth; in international waters all static gear fishing is banned below 200 m depth (


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.

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Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)


ICES (2018). ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch, and effort Bay of Biscay and the Iberian Coast, Celtic Seas, Greater North Sea, and Oceanic Northeast Atlantic ecoregions. Published 29 June 2018 (Accessed June 2018);
ICES (2016). ICES Advice 2016, Book 5