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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 and latest research carried out by ICES shows that stocks are healthy and fishing level is sustainable. Populations are increasing but are still below historical levels. 

Updated July 2018

Sustainability ratings for this species

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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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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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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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.


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

The latest scientific advice from ICES on Plaice stocks in our area show that the plaice stocks both in the Celtic sea and the Western Channel are very  healthy and well above sustainable levels. Fishing effort is below sustainable levels in the Celtic sea but slightly over sustainable levels in the Western Channel (ICES 2018).  Plaice landings to Cornish ports have decreased markedly from 600 tonnes in 1995 to just over 200 tonnes for the past 15 years (MMO landings data).  This is largely due to quota restrictions and reduction of fishing effort due to decommissioning of beam trawlers.


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 off the North Cornwall coast that has been established to protect spawning cod, and stocks have also benefitted from restriction of fishing effort enforced by the sole recovery plan. 

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 during February and march. The peak landings occur during this time and in September. 

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