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Sole

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Dover sole by Sarah McCartney

Description

Sole or Dover sole, are an oval shaped flatfish which are highly prized for their fabulous taste and texture. Thanks to a sucessful sole recovery plan sole populations are healthy in our area and sole is a good choice. 

Sustainability Overview

Sole stocks in Cornish waters have been better managed in recent years and the latest advice from fisheries scientists are that stocks are healthy in both the Western English channel and in the Celtic seas where stocks are now above maximum sustainable yield.  The sole recovery plan combined with the Trevose bank closure have helped this highly valuable species. 

Updated July 2019

Sustainability ratings for this species

Beam Trawling

Off Cornwall's South Coast (Area VII e)

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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Gill Netting

Off Cornwall's south Coast (VII e)

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

Off Cornwall's South Coast (area VII e)

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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Demersal Trawl

Off Cornwall's North Coast (area VII f)

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.

Learn more

Beam Trawling

Off Cornwall's North Coast (area VII f)

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.

Learn more

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.

Biology

Dover sole is common throughout the coastal waters of the North East Atlantic, inhabiting sandy and muddy areas in waters down to 150m depth. It tends to be inactive during daylight, when it may be partially buried in the seabed, but feeds actively at night on marine worms and small molluscs shrimps and crabs. 
Sole have been known to live for up to 40 years, but today are rarely caught above 15 years of age. Females grow to a larger size than males, reaching lengths of 50–60cm. They are sexually mature at age two to three, but do not achieve their full reproductive potential until age four or five. They migrate offshore in winter, but return to shallower water in spring, when the adults will move to distinct spawning grounds in inshore waters or on offshore banks. The main spawning areas for sole in the Celtic Sea are at depths of 40–75 m, off Trevose Head. Spawning usually takes place between February and April. 
The planktonic larvae move inshore and settle onto the sea bed in estuaries, tidal inlets and sandy bays. As the larvae reach a size of 15–18mm in length, the left eye begins its ‘migration’ and moves to the right side of the head head. The fish then move to the sea bed and juveniles remain in these nursery areas for around two years before moving to deeper water to join the adult stock. 
 

Stock Info

Stocks of sole have been relatively well studied in our area by ICES (International Council for Exploration of the Sea). Overall stocks are healthy although the fishing effort in the Celtic sea (to the North of Cornwall) is higher than it should be. The stocks of sole have recovered well thanks to reduction in effort through the EU sole recovery plan. This plan has limited fishing effort using mobile gear for sole considerably through quota restrictions and improvements in gear as well as time at sea limitations. 
In the Celtic sea sole stocks were above sustainable levels (MSY) between 2001 and 2012 but then they dipped down but in 2017 they improved slightly. Fishing effort is currently too high - well above sustainable and precautionary levels. (ICES 2018).
In the Western Channel (Ie off the south coast) stocks are healthy above sustainable levels (MSY) and since 2009 fishing effort has been low enought to be below Maximum sustianable yeild with effort continuing to decrease.
 

Management

Sole are managed through the EU common fisheries policy which sets quotas. Additionally sole have been managed through an EU management plan since in 2007 (Council Regulation (EC) No. 509/2007). This limits effort on sole stocks through days at sea limitations and gear modification including the mandatory use of square mesh panels in the Celtic sea to allow undersized fish to escape from trawls. There is a minimum landing size for sole of 24cm. 

Capture Info

In Cornish waters sole are caught in demersal trawls, beam trawls and occasionally in gill nets (sole nets). Although discard rates of sole are low in beam trawl fisheries (about 2–5% in weight), discard rates of other (commercial and non-commercial) species can be considerable. Beam trawling, especially when using chain-mat gear, is known to have a significant impact on the benthic communities, although less so on soft substrates and in areas which have been historically exploited by this fishing method. Demersal trawling also has an impact on the seabed and gill nets have issues with by catch of rare sharks and rays and cetaceans.

 

References

ICES advice 2019 Sole In Western English Channel
ICES advice 2019 Sole in Celtic Sea
ICES advice 2018 Sole In Western English Channel
ICES advice 2018 Sole in Celtic Sea
ICES advice 2017 Sole in Western English channel
ICES advice 2017 Sole in Celtic Sea
Seafish Responsible sourcing guide Dover sole
MCS fish online www.fishonline.org
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
Ices popular advice http://gis.ices.dk/popadvice/

Recipes for Sole

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