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 — Southwest Stock - West of Ireland, English Channel, Bristol Channel, South East Ireland
Stock detail — VIIb-k, VIIIa,b, d
Picture of Monkfish, Anglerfish

Sustainability rating four info

Sustainability overview

The state of the stock with respect to reference points in this area is unknown, but thought to be increasing in the long-term. 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.

Biology

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

Stock Area

Southwest Stock - West of Ireland, English Channel, Bristol Channel, South East Ireland

Stock information

There is no analytical assessment available for this stock and so reference points are not defined. The main cause of this is lack of data, specifically on discards, and other parameters, e.g. ageing. Efforts are required to obtain reliable estimates of total catches (landings and discards) in order to improve the assessment. The perception of the stock of white anglerfish has not changed. Biomass shows a variable but overall increasing trend over time. From the latest evaluation conducted using data until 2014, it is concluded that fishing mortality (up to 2014) is below the F MSY proxy and stock biomass (up to 2015) is above the MSY B trigger proxy. There has been a steady decrease in fishing effort since the early 1990s. ICES advises that landings in 2017 and 2018 may be increased by 20% and should be no more than 26,691 tonnes for L.picatorius.

The Fisheries Science Partnership (FSP) is a collaborative programme of scientific research between the UK fishing industry and scientists. Its main aim is to build relationships between UK fishermen and scientists and to involve fishermen in the co-commissioning of science. The western anglerfish programme has been carried out every year between 2003 and 2012, with the aim of investigating the abundance and size composition of anglerfish on the main UK anglerfish fishing grounds off the southwest coast of England. Survey results conclude that signs are that a fifth successive relatively strong year class of L. piscatorius was entering the fishery in 2012. This survey has now been discontinued.

Management

There are no specific management objectives known to ICES. The two species are landed together with landings of L.piscatorius representing 70% of the total. 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. Discards are known to take place. Although they cannot be quantified they are estimated at more than 5%. 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 the majority of the anglerfish catch consists of young 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. Research surveys have shown an apparent increase in fish on fishing grounds, meaning that where the quota is restrictive, discarding will likely increase. Unreported landings in some fisheries in this area are thought to be substantial and there are indications that discarding of small anglerfish has increased in recent years. The C&WSTG English Channel megrim, monk and sole beam trawl fishery was under full assessment against the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) standard but withdrew in December 2014.

Capture Information

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 in its use between 600 and 200 m depth; in international waters all static gear fishing is banned below 200 m depth (www.neafc.org)

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.

Basa, Tra, Catfish or Vietnamese River Cobbler
Bass, seabass (Farmed)
Bream, Gilthead (Farmed)
Cod, Atlantic Cod
Coley, Saithe
Haddock
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Japanese amberjack, Yellowtail or Seriola
Pollack or Lythe
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Pouting or Bib
Sturgeon (Farmed)
Tilapia
Whiting

References

ICES Advice 2016, Book 5 http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2016/2016/anp-78ab.pdf;
The Net Effect. A WDCS Report for Greenpeace. Ross and Isaac (2004);
The Price of Fish: A review of cetacean bycatch in fisheries in the north-east Atantic. L Nunny (2011);
ICES Advice 2014, Book 5 http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2014/2014/anb-78ab.pdf;
http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2014/2014/anp78ab.pdf;
Fisheries Science Partnership 2012/12: Programme 25. Western Anglerfish 2003-12. L Readdy, J Ashworth and E Lane. Cefas, Lowestoft;
Project 50% http://www.seafish.org/media/Publications/SR391.pdf;
Cornwall Good Seafood Guide http://www.cornwallgoodseafoodguide.org.uk/fish-guide/monkfish.php;
http://www.seafish.org/rass/index.php/profiles/anglerfish-celtic-sea-and-biscay-tangle-nets/