Good Fish Guide
Sole, Dover sole, Common sole
Method of production - Caught at sea
Capture method - Beam trawl
Capture area - North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area - North Sea
Stock detail - IV
Certification - Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)
Fish type - White flat fish
The Hastings Fleet Dover sole fishery and the Cooperative Fishery Organisation (CVO) North Sea plaice and sole fishery were certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) as environmentally responsible or sustainable fisheries in July 2009 and December 2012 respectively. Avoid eating immature sole (less than 30cm) and fresh (not previously frozen) fish caught during the breeding season (April-June).
Sole is a right-eyed flatfish (eyes on the right hand side of the body) and belongs to the family of flatfishes known as Soleidae. It spawns in spring and early summer in shallow coastal water, from April to June in the southern North Sea, from May-June off the coast of Ireland and southern England, and as early as February in the Mediterranean. Common sole become sexually mature at 3-5 years, when 25-35cm long, the males being somewhat smaller than the females. It can attain lengths of 60-70cm and weigh 3kg.The maximum reported age is 26 years. Sole is a nocturnal predator and therefore more susceptible to capture by fisheries at night than in daylight.
The spawning-stock biomass (SSB) has increased since 2007 and has been estimated at above MSY Btrigger since 2012. Fishing mortality (F) has declined since 1997 and is estimated to be at FMSY in 2015. Recruitment (R) has fluctuated without trend since the early 1990s.
ICES advises that catches in 2017 should be no more than 15 251 tonnes.
The EU adopted a management plan for flatfish in the North Sea in June 2007 and it is considered by ICES, with a high probability, that this will prevent the stock dropping below safe biological limits in the next decade. The plan has been evaluated by ICES as precautionary.
In the southern North Sea sole are mainly caught by beam trawlers (86%) in mixed fisheries with plaice and other flat fish using 80 mm mesh nets. In other areas the mesh size for mobile fishing gears is 100 and 120 cm. The smaller minimum mesh size in the mixed flatfish beam trawl fishery in the southern North Sea means that large numbers of undersized plaice and cod (which are currently under a recovery plan) are discarded. The introduction of measures to reduce discarding such as larger mesh sizes, larger landing sizes and additional measures to protect juvenile fish should be implemented in order to increase the sustainability of this fishery. An increase in minimum mesh size will reduce discards of juvenile plaice and cod, however it would also lead to a loss of marketable sole. Discards of sole in the order of 20% are known to take place. Minimum landing size for sole in EU waters is 24cm. Choosing fish caught by more selective methods, e.g. gill, fixed net or seine net, can help reduce the negative impacts associated with beam trawling in this area. Ensure fixed nets are 'dolphin friendly'. See Fishing Methods for information. Avoid eating immature sole (less than 30cm) and fresh (not previously frozen) fish caught during the breeding season (April-June).
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.
ICES Advice 2016, Book 6 http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2016/2016/sol-nsea.pdf
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