Plaice

Pleuronectes platessa

Plaice

Image | by Sarah McCartney, Copyright Cornwall Wildlife Trust

Description

Plaice is a popular and tasty flatfish and is Europes most important commercial species of flat fish. It is easily recognised by its distinctive orange spots on its upper surface. 


Sustainability Overview

Plaice populations appear to be relatively stable in our area but this species has been overfished and more measures should be made to protect stocks. Populations are increasing but are still below historical levels and fishing effort is greater than ICES recommends in our area. Avoid eating immature plaice 

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When is best to eat?

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Gill Netting

Cornish Vessels landing to Cornish ports

Gill nets are lightweight nets made of nylon (monofilament) fishing line that are anchored to the seabed and are used to catch fish by entangling the gills.

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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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Beam Trawling

Cornish Vessels landing to Cornish ports

Beam trawls are nets with 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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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

Plaice populations appear to be relatively stable in our area but this species has been overfished and more measures should be made to protect stocks. Populations are increasing but are still below historical levels and fishing effort is greater than ICES recommends in our area. Avoid eating immature plaice 

Plaice

Biology

Plaice is a right eyed flatfish that lives on the seabed where it is well camouflaged and is able to change colour to match is surroundings. They are opportunistic feeders living on small invertebrates such has crabs, worms and small fish. During the daytime they are often inactive, hiding in sand, emerging at night time to feed. Plaice can grow up to 42cm in length. In our area plaice spawn in the early months of the year from February to March (Fishbase)and sometimes they makes long spawning migrations. Juvenile place are often found in sandy bays and estuaries. It is a long-lived species, becoming sexually mature at 3-7 years (females) 2-6 (males) and living 30 years or more. Maximum reported age 50 years. They are relatively vulnerable to fishing having a biological vulnerability rating of 71% (Cheung et al 2005).

Stock Info

Project inshore in 2013 stated that stock status was in relatively good condition and rated it as recommended for western Channel stocks and conditions likely for celtic sea stocks. - it highlighted ways in which the situation could be improved but overall it is healthy. This is backed up by ICES advice for 2014. Spawning stock biomass of plaice has increased however ICES show that fishing intensity is still above recommended levels. Plaice landings to Cornish ports have decreased markedly from 600 tonnes in the mid 1995 to just over 200 tonnes for the past 3 years (MMO landings data).  This is largely due to quota restrictions and reduction of fishing effort due to decommissioning of beam trawlers.

Management

Plaice catches are restricted through quota administered by the Common Fisheries policy. There is a minimum EU landing size of 27cm. There are thought to be problems with discards which in some areas may be double the landings. Plaice may also benefit from the seasonal closure of the important Trevose spawning grounds 20 miles off the North Cornwall coast that has been established to protect spawning cod. 

Capture Info

Plaice are caught in demesal trawls, beam trawls and in gill nets to a far lesser extent. The main fishery occurs 20 miles off the North Coast of Cornwall where place spawn February and march. The peak landings occur during this time and in September. 

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