Whiting

Merlangius merlangus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Irish Sea
Stock detail

VIIa


Picture of Whiting

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

Present stock size is extremely low. Discarding is a serious problem for whiting in this area and nationally, with over 40 million whiting discarded in 2009. Since 2014 almost all of the whiting catch from the Irish Sea is being discarded. ICES continues to advise that there be no catch of whiting from the Irish Sea.

Biology

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: 1 info

Stock Area

Irish Sea

Stock information

This stock was benchmarked in January 2017. The result of the benchmark was that the stock was changed from a category 3 stock (trend-based assessment) to a category 1 stock (analytical assessment). The present stock size is extremely low. SSB has been declining since the start of the time-series and has been well below Blim since the mid-1990s. Recruitment has been low since the early 1990s. Large variations in fishing pressure has been estimated in recent years and F has been above Flim for the entire time-series. ICES advises that when the MSY approach is applied, there should be zero catches in each of the years 2018 and 2019. ICES have been advising zero catches for this stock since early 2000.

Management

Criterion score: 1 info

There are no specific management objectives known to ICES. The majority of whiting caught are discards in the Nephrops fishery and are below the minimum landings size. Despite the introduction of several technical measures to reduce fin fish catch and discards in the Nephrops fishery, the total discards estimates remain high.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 1 info

There is no remaining targeted whiting fishery in the Irish Sea. Whiting are taken as bycatch (and discarded) within the main Irish Sea fisheries. The majority of whiting caught are discards in the Nephrops fishery and are below the minimum landings size. Despite the introduction of several technical measures to reduce fin fish catch and discards in the Nephrops fishery the total discards estimates remain high. In 2016 almost 98% (99% in 2015) of the whiting catch was discarded, almost entirely (78%) by boats trawling for nephrops. Management measures are required to reduce bycatch and discarding of the species here 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 in the gear such as escape panels, separator panels, square mesh and variations in mesh size over the net. There is currently an area of the western Irish Sea closed to whitefish fishing, however the effects of this upon the whiting stock are unclear. There is potential damage to the seabed from trawling. The minimum landing size for whiting is 27cm, however fish over this size have been observed to be discarded.

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
Cod, Pacific Cod
Coley, Saithe
Haddock
Hake, Cape
Hake, European
Pollock, Alaska, Walleye
Sturgeon (Farmed)
Tilapia
Whiting

References

ICES Advice 2017 http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2017/2017/whg.27.7a.pdf