Bycatch limits on petrale sole, an overfished groundfish species, have significantly limited catch of English sole. However, due to above-average petrale sole reproduction and survival rates in the past few years and overall productivity of flatfish stocks, managers slightly increased petrale sole bycatch limits for 2012. Petrale sole are no longer overfished and populations are rebuilding; this should have a positive effect on the English sole fishery. In addition, petrale sole populations are rebuilding, and catch limits have been increased for 2013. Continued rebuilding of the petrale resource should have a positive effect on the English sole fishery.
- Ocean perch
- Sea Bass
- Turbot (Greenland)
ALSO KNOWN AS:
Sole, Lemon sole
U.S. wild-caught from Alaska to California
- FISHING RATE
- HABITAT IMPACTS
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English soleLAUNCH GALLERY
English sole is not true sole (which is found only in the Atlantic), but is related more closely to flounder. A mild-tasting fish, English sole has been harvested off the West Coast since the late 1800s. Today, most U.S.-caught English sole is harvested by trawlers over sandy, muddy bottoms off Oregon, California, and Washington. A small amount is also harvested in the Gulf of Alaska.
Since groundfish are often caught together, harvests of more abundant species such as English sole have been limited by the need to rebuild the remaining overfished species. In early 2011, managers implemented a “catch share program” for the West Coast groundfish trawl fishery to help address this issue. Under this program, managers divide the annual catch limit for the fishery into shares controlled by fishermen. Fishermen can catch their share whenever they want, allowing them the flexibility to better plan their season, fish during safer weather and when market prices for their catch are highest, and reduce bycatch of overfished species.
LOCATION & HABITAT
English sole are found off the west coast of North America, from the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands to central Baja California. Larval and juvenile English sole live in estuaries and nearshore areas, including the Puget Sound and Strait of Georgia. Adults live in water over 1,800 feet deep. Both juveniles and adults prefer soft sandy or muddy bottom habitats, but have also been found in eelgrass habitats. After they spawn in the spring, English sole travel north to summer feeding grounds; they return south in the fall.
English sole spawn from winter to early spring over soft mud bottoms in water 165 to 230 feet deep. Depending on their size, females release between 150,000 and 2 million eggs. Eggs are slightly buoyant but sink before hatching a few days after spawning. Larvae stay near the surface for about 2 to 3 months, before being transported by wind and tidal streams to nearshore and estuarine nursery areas - an uncommon characteristic for a flatfish species in this region. Juveniles spend 1 to 2 years growing and developing in these nursery areas before migrating out to deeper waters, typically in late May.
Larval English sole feed on plankton (tiny floating plants and animals). Juveniles and adults are carnivorous and feed on crustaceans, polychaete worms, small bivalves, clam siphons, and other bottom-dwelling invertebrates. English sole feed by day using sight and smell and sometimes dig for their prey. Seabirds, larger fishes, and marine mammals feed on juveniles. Marine mammals, sharks, and other large fishes prey on adults.
Female English sole grow twice as large as males, up to about 2 feet. In fact, females dominate the commercial catch because males seldom grow to marketable size. Females can live up to at least 20 years, 4 years longer than males. Males are able to reproduce when they reach 2 years old; females mature starting at 3 years.
English sole is a flatfish with both eyes on the right side of its head. They have a pointed snout and their upper eye is visible on their non-eyed side.
Scientists from NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center survey English sole in the Gulf of Alaska every two years. Off the West Coast, scientists from NOAA's Northwest Fisheries Science Center conduct annual bottom trawl surveys that collect data on English sole abundance and the size and age of the fish in the population. Both science centers also run observer programs for the West Coast and Alaska groundfish fisheries. These programs place fisheries observers on commercial fishing vessels to monitor and record catch and critical biological data (such as fish age, reproduction, length, sex, and weight). This information improves our understanding of fishing activities and helps provide accurate accounts of total catch, bycatch, and discards associated with different fisheries and fish stocks.
Off the West Coast, English sole abundance has been increasing rapidly over the past decade, thanks to successful reproduction and survival from 1998 to 2002. English sole is currently well above target population levels. Last assessed in 2013, the Pacific Coast stock was not overfished or experiencing overfishing.
In the Gulf of Alaska, English sole is part of the "shallow water flatfish" complex. Population status determinations are based on abundance estimates of indicator species (Northern and Southern Rock Sole) from the complex. As of 2012, no overfishing was occurring. The next shallow water flatfish complex assessment is planned for December 2013.
In the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, English sole is part of the "other flatfish" complex. Unlike the flatfish complex in the Gulf of Alaska, this complex does not have any indicator species that are used to assess population levels. However, an overfishing level is set for the complex, and as long as this level is not exceeded the complex is not subject to overfishing.
The coastal states and treaty tribes conduct port-side monitoring programs which provide valuable biological data to support stock assessment science and aid in proper management decisions.
Scientists have identified a number of areas where additional research would substantially improve their ability to reliably and precisely model trends in the abundance of English sole, including extending the stock assessment to include Canadian waters, improving historical and current catch data, and collecting more data on English sole’s sexual maturity.
Harvesting English Sole
English sole supports an important commercial fishery off the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and northern and central California. A small amount is harvested in the Gulf of Alaska. Fishermen primarily use bottom trawls to harvest English sole. Management measures prohibit bottom trawling in certain areas to protect groundfish habitat and overfished species. Vessels use a vessel monitoring system, which allows enforcement staff and fishery managers to monitor GPS locations of fishing activities and ensure that vessels are complying with closed areas.
To reduce bycatch, fishermen follow a number of management measures including area closures, reduced trip limits, and non-retention rules to minimize impact to overfished rockfish. In addition, fishermen follow gear restrictions such as minimum trawl mesh sizes, small footrope regulations, and the mandatory use of selective flatfish trawl nets in areas off the coasts of Oregon and Washington; and variable catch limits to encourage fishing with gears and in areas with less bycatch. Bycatch is closely monitored under the groundfish trawl catch share program. In Alaska, bycatch is very low in the deep-water flatfish fishery. There are limits on the amount of protected species (halibut, salmon, and crab) groundfish fisheries can incidentally catch; if the limit is reached, managers close the fishery for the remainder of the season.
Who’s in charge? NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific (West Coast) and North Pacific (Alaska) Fishery Management Councils
West Coast: Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (English sole are often caught in “multispecies complexes” – several different groundfish species caught together at the same time – and managed along with 90 other species that also live on or near the bottom.)
- All vessels fishing in the groundfish fishery off Washington, Oregon, and California must have a federal limited entry permit. With a finite number of permits available (about 400), this program controls the capacity of the groundfish fishing fleet by limiting the overall number of fishing vessels, the number of vessels using each of the three specified gear types (trawl, trap/pot, longline), and vessel length.
- As of January 2011, the West Coast groundfish trawl fishery is now managed under a trawl rationalization catch share program. Under this new program, managers establish annual catch limits based on the health of each fish stock. They then allocate a share of this catch limit to individual fishermen or groups of fishermen. These fishermen can decide how and when to catch their share – preferably when weather, markets, and business conditions are most favorable, allowing the fishery the flexibility to be more environmentally responsible, safer, more efficient, and more valuable. Observers monitor 100 percent of the fishing trips, which helps reduce bycatch and provides better data for future stock assessments.
- Various gear restrictions and closed areas affect both West Coast groundfish fisheries and fisheries that may take groundfish incidentally. These regulations are in place to reduce bycatch of overfished groundfish species and protect groundfish habitat.
Gulf of Alaska:There is a small U.S. fishery for English sole in the Gulf of Alaska which is managed as part of the “shallow water flatfish group” under the Gulf of Alaska Groundfish Fishery Management Plan.
- Managers set a conservative annual catch limit for the fishery, which has allowed for sustainable harvests during the past decade.
- A “license limitation program” limits the number, size, and specific operation of vessels in groundfish fisheries. This helps prevent the “race for fish,” where fishermen would compete against one another to catch as many fish before the catch limit was reached and the fishery closed, leading to unsafe fishing practices, market instability, and high levels of bycatch.
Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands: English sole is managed as part of the “other flatfish complex” under the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands Fishery Management Plan.
- A "license limitation program" limits the number, size, and specific operation of vessels in groundfish fisheries. This helps prevent the "race for fish," where fishermen would compete against one another to catch as many fish before the catch limit was reached and the fishery closed, leading to unsafe fishing practices, market instability, and high levels of bycatch.
- No direct fishery for English sole, but managers set total allowable catch levels for the complex.
In 2011, more than 400,000 pounds of English sole was harvested off the U.S. West Coast. About 76 percent of the landings come from the Washington and Oregon fisheries, while the remainder (less than 25 percent) comes from California and Alaska.
Most English sole sold in U.S. markets comes from the domestic fishery. A small amount is imported from Canada. English sole make up a substantial portion of annual revenues from the West Coast trawl fishery; 2011 landings were worth more than $100,000.
English sole is a lean, mild-tasting white fish.
English sole is an excellent source of low-fat protein, calcium, and vitamins.
|Serving Weight||100 g (raw)|
|Fat, total||1.19 g|
|Saturated fatty acids, total||0.283 g|
|Sugars, total||0 g|
|Fiber, total dietary||0 g|
English sole table of nutrition
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