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Dab by Marc Dando


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. Stock levels of dab are poorly understood in our area but there is little evidence that the stocks are unhealthy. Catches of dab landed in Cornwall have fluctuated between five and twenty tonnes per year since the 1990's.

In 2021 a total of 7 tonnes of dab were landed to Cornish ports with a value of £2.5k (MMO data).

Updated July 2023

Sustainability ratings for this species

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 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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How we rate fish

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.


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 is moderatew 40% (Cheung et al 2005 source

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, as a result the Seafish RASS website consideres them at high risk in terms of stock. 


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 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.


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
Marine Managment Organisation landings data
Seafish RASS report on Dab 

Where to buy

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Sustainable alternatives


Cornish Sole, Megrim

Lepidirhombus whiffogonia

Sustainable alternative recipes

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