Whiting

Merlangius merlangus

Whiting by Marc Dando

Image | by Marc Dando, Copywrite Seafish

Description

Whiting has delicate white flesh and is best used when very fresh. Sold whole and filleted, fresh or frozen. Also dried, salted and smoked. Whiting is an under appreciated fish that amongst many other uses makes a great alternative to cod in fish and chips!  


Sustainability Overview

Whiting stocks are healthy in our area and are fished to responsible levels. And are a very sustainable option. Sadly large numbers of whiting are currently being discarded due to low market value of this tasty species. Scientists are calling for improvements to be made to fishing gear to reduce discards. Avoid eating fish below 30cm – this is the size at which they become mature.

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When is best to eat?

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Handlining

Cornish Vessels landing to Cornish Ports

A low impact, selective method of fishing using hook and line.

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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

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

Whiting stocks are healthy in our area and are fished to responsible levels. And are a very sustainable option. Sadly large numbers of whiting are currently being discarded due to low market value of this tasty species. Scientists are calling for improvements to be made to fishing gear to reduce discards. Avoid eating fish below 30cm – this is the size at which they become mature.

Whiting by Marc Dando

Biology

Whiting is a relative of cod, doesn’t grow as large (up to 70cm) they are sandy blue green colour. They like deeper cool waters.  Whiting breed between January and July with peak spawning in March and April. They can live for up to 20 years and mature at an age of 2-3 years. Biological vulnerability for this species is relatively low 37% (Ref. Chung et al 2005, source www.fishbase.org) .  

Stock Info

Whiting stocks in our area are healthy and are above Maximum sustainable yield. Fishing pressure is within safe limits (Ref ICES 2017). There are some problems with discards of undersized and unwanted whiting and technical measures need to be developed to address this. Many SW trawlers are involved in Seafish gear modification trials that aim to improve gear to reduce unwanted catches of undersized or over quota whiting. 

Management

Whiting catches across Europe are capped by a quota. Minimum landing size in Cornish waters is 27cm. The industry led Trevose closure directly benefits spawning whiting in the Celtic sea. Square mesh panels have been compulsory since 2012 for demersal trawls in this area which is reducing accidental by catch of whiting.  According to Project inshore - Stock size appears stable and catches are limited to an extent. However, the TAC has been set above scientific advice consistently and a high proportion of the catch is discarded suggesting that the management continues to be ineffective in managing this stock. The Seafish Ecological Risk Assessment of the effects of Fishing (ERAEF)consequence score for Whiting fisheries in SW is 3.2 (out of 5) so average risk. 
 
 

Capture Info

Whiting are mainly taken in mixed-species fisheries targeting cod, haddock, and whiting with otter trawls and gill nets. Trawling is associated with benthic impacts and high levels of bycatch. Discards, especially of 1 and 2 year old fish, are incredibly high due to the low market value of the species. Up to 75% of whiting caught can be discarded.

References

Risk Assessment for Seafood Sourcing (Seafish) Whiting 2016
Seafish Responsible sourcing guides, Whiting
Project Inshore preassessment database
 

Recipes for Whiting

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