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When is best to eat?

Whiting by Marc Dando


Whiting has delicate white flesh and is best used when very fresh. Sold whole and filleted, fresh or frozen. Also dried, salted and smoked. 

Sustainability Overview

Whiting stocks fluctuate naturally but have taken a downwards trend in the past five years with ICES advising zero catch in 2023 and 2024. This means that this species automatically gets a rating of 5 - fish to avoid. 

Fishing effort is too high across the European fleet and this species is now no longer recommended by Cornwall Good Seafood Guide. Avoid eating fish below 30cm – this is the size at which they become mature.

A total of 163 tonnes of whiting were landed to Cornish ports in 2021, with a value of £188k (MMO data).

Updated July 2023

Sustainability ratings for this species

Hook and line

Cornish vessels landing to Cornish ports

Whiting are occasionally caught on handlines but it is rarely targeted.

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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

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.


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 .  

Stock Info

A species who's abundance naturally fluctuates in Celtic seas, whiting is a cold water species that has poor recruitment in warmer years. In 2017 stock levels suddenly fell below sustainable levels, (well below MSY) and fishing pressure on this species has increased with fishing levels now well above MSY (ICES). Landings of Whiting to Cornish ports have continued to decrease. 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. 



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.  

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.  Occasinally fishermen catch whiting when handlining or fishing with rod and line, this is a selective fishing method but with such poor stock status even handline caught fish are scored 5 under the scoring methodology used.

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