Dab

Limanda limada

Dab by Marc Dando

Image | Illustration by Marc Dando Copywrite Seafish

Description

A smaller cousin of plaice and flounder, dab is a versatile and delicious fish that is currently under-rated.


Sustainability Overview

Dab are a relatively abundant species of flatfish which provide a more sustainable alternative to more vulnerable, longer-lived and overfished species of flatfish such as plaice. It is mostly taken as bycatch in trawl fisheries and often discarded because of its low market value. More demand for the species would increase its value and help to reduce this. Its stock levels are poorly understood in our area but there is little evidence that the stocks are unhealthy. Catches of dab landed in Cornwall have been increasing each year from 5 tonnes in 2002 to 20 tonnes in 2013 (MMO data). .As an under-utilised species it is ranked by Cefas as one of the most tolerant of over-fishing and therefore one of the better ones for consumers to eat.

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When is best to eat?

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Beam Trawling

Cornish vessels landing to Cornish Ports

Beam trawls are nets attached to a steel beam that holds the net open. The belly of the net is made of chains and the upper surface of the net is mesh. Beam trawlers pull two nets along the seabed simultaneously.

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Demersal Trawl

Cornish vessels landing to Cornish ports

Demersal trawls are large nets that are pulled through the water with the bottom edge of the net touching the seabed. At each edge the net is pulled open by metal ‘trawl doors’. Sometimes referred to as Otter trawling.

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How we rate fish

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Cornwall Good Seafood Guide rates fish on sustainability using a scale of 1 to 5.

1, 2 and 3 are recommended, Fish to avoid are rated 5.

We use the system devised by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) so our scores are comparable with the scores produced by MCS for the UK and fisheries from all around the world. For more information on scoring click here.

Sustainability Overview

Dab are a relatively abundant species of flatfish which provide a more sustainable alternative to more vulnerable, longer-lived and overfished species of flatfish such as plaice. It is mostly taken as bycatch in trawl fisheries and often discarded because of its low market value. More demand for the species would increase its value and help to reduce this. Its stock levels are poorly understood in our area but there is little evidence that the stocks are unhealthy. Catches of dab landed in Cornwall have been increasing each year from 5 tonnes in 2002 to 20 tonnes in 2013 (MMO data). .As an under-utilised species it is ranked by Cefas as one of the most tolerant of over-fishing and therefore one of the better ones for consumers to eat.

Dab by Marc Dando

Biology

Dab is a right-eyed flatfish (both eyes are on the right side of the body) related to the plaice, flounder and sole. It can reach a length of about 40cms and an age of 10-12 years. Spawns in January to May in Cornish waters and is common in Cornish waters.  Males become sexually mature at 2-3 years when 10-20cms long, the females at 3-5 years when 20-25cms. Biological vulnerability rating low 40% (Cheung et al 2005 source www.fishbase.org).

Stock Info

Dab stocks are not well studied in our area and are classed as data deficient, with no published information from ICES. Most studies to date have been carried out in the North Sea – need for more research in Celtic sea and western channel. CEFAs identify them as a species that are currently underutilized. They are currently often discarded as they are not of great economic value. 
Distributed throughout the northeast Atlantic, dab is an abundant fish on shallow, sandy grounds off coasts of northern Europe. Due to lack of data, no reliable stock assessment for the species is carried out and no reference points have been defined. However, recent studies suggest that dab is the most abundant fish species in the North Sea, after sandeel. Dab is considered an under-utilised species. Under-utilised species are ones that fishermen don't catch their full quota of, or they catch them but then discard the fish because no one wants to buy them. CEFAS have compiled a list of these species using quota and discard information.
 

Management

In the Cornwall IFCA district there is a minimum landing size of 15cm for Dab.
There are no specific management objectives for this species. In Cornish waters there is no quota for dab. 

Capture Info

In Cornish waters dab are landed by demersal trawls and beam trawls. Demersal otter trawling is often associated with discarding of unwanted fish, i.e. undersized and/or non-quota and/or over-quota species. Dab catches are generally discarded based on the availability of target species and market price, dab has a low commercial value. However the limited survival data available suggests that dab have a high survival rate (77-88% depending on trawl duration and processing time). There is no minimum landing size specified for dab in EU waters, therefore there is potential for landing of immature fish. In the Cornwall and North Western & North Wales Sea Fisheries Districts, landing dab below 15cm is prohibited.

References

Seafish Responsible sourcing guide Dab 2014
 
Identifying underutilised species - Tom Catchpole, Cefas, January 2011 (This project was funded by Defra)
 
MMO landings data for Cornish ports
 
Cheung, W.W.L., T.J. Pitcher and D. Pauly, 2005. A fuzzy logic expert system to estimate intrinsic extinction vulnerabilities of marine fishes to fishing. Biol. Conserv. 124:97-111 (source www.fishbase.org)
 
Marine Managment Organisation landings data

Sustainable alternative recipies

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