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English Sole

Parophrys vetulus

English sole

Also Known As

  • Sole
  • Lemon sole

U.S. wild-caught English sole is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.

Population

Above target population levels on the West Coast and in the Gulf of Alaska. Population status is unknown in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands.

Fishing Rate

At recommended levels.

Habitat Impacts

Area closures and gear restrictions protect habitats affected by bottom trawls used to harvest English sole.

Bycatch

Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.

  • Availability

    Year-round. 

  • Source

    U.S. wild-caught from Alaska to California. 

  • Taste

    Mild taste with a slight shellfish flavor. 

  • Texture

    Moist and delicate with fine flakes. 

  • Health Benefits

    Excellent source of low-fat protein as well as selenium and vitamins. 

The U.S. Fishery

Fishery Management

Harvest

  • In 2016, commercial landings of English sole totaled 379 metric tons and were valued at $269,046. 
    • The majority of the catch comes from Oregon and Washington.
  • Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
    • Bottom trawls are used to catch English sole.
    • Trawls that are used to harvest English sole can contact the ocean floor and impact habitats, depending on the characteristics of the ocean bottom and the size of the gear.
    • Bottom trawls cause minimal damage to habitat when targeting English sole over soft, sandy, or muddy ocean bottoms on the West Coast and in Alaska.
    • In Alaska and on the West Coast, NOAA Fisheries and the regional fishery management councils have implemented large closed areas to protect sensitive rocky, cold-water coral and sponge habitats from bottom trawls.
    • Vessel monitoring systems allow enforcement staff and fishery managers to monitor GPS locations of fishing activities to ensure vessels are complying with closed areas.
    • In Alaska, fishery managers limit the amount of halibut, herring, and crab that groundfish fisheries can incidentally catch. If the limit is reached, managers close the fishery for the remainder of the season. 

The Science

Population Status

  • According to the 2013 assessment, English sole on the West Coast are not overfished, and are not subject to overfishing based on 2016 catch data.
  • In the Gulf of Alaska, English sole is assessed as part of a complex with other flatfish, called the “shallow water flatfish complex”:
    • According to the 2017 assessment, this complex is not overfished and not subject to overfishing.
  • In the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands, English sole is assessed as part of a complex with other flatfish, called the “other flatfish complex”:
    • This complex was last assessed in 2017, but data were insufficient to determine whether the complex is overfished.
    • 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 complex is not subject to overfishing.

Location

  • English sole are found off the west coast of North America from the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands to central Baja California.

Habitat

  • Larval and juvenile English sole live in estuaries and nearshore areas, including Puget Sound and the Strait of Georgia.
  • Adults live in water more than 1,800 feet deep.
  • Juveniles and adults prefer soft sandy or muddy ocean bottom habitats, but have also been found in eelgrass habitats.
  • After spawning in the spring, English sole travel north to summer feeding grounds. They return south in the fall. 

Physical Description

  • English sole are flatfish, with both of their eyes located on the right side of their head.
  • They have a pointed snout and their upper eye is visible on their underside. 

Biology

  • Female English sole grow twice as large as males, up to about 2 feet. 
  • Females can live for more than 20 years, 4 years longer than males.
  • Males are able to reproduce when they reach 2 years old. Females mature starting at 3 years old.
  • They spawn from winter to early spring over soft muddy ocean floors in water 165 to 230 feet deep.
  • Depending on their size, females release between 150,000 and 2 million eggs. Eggs sink to the bottom a few days after spawning. 
  • Larvae stay near the surface for about 2 to 3 months before they are 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 developing in nursery areas before migrating out to deeper waters, typically in late May.
  • Larvae feed on plankton (tiny floating plants and animals).
  • Juvenile and adult English sole feed on crustaceans, worms, small bivalves, clam siphons, and other bottom-dwelling invertebrates.
  • English sole feed during the day using sight and smell, and sometimes dig for their prey.
  • Seabirds, larger fishes, and marine mammals prey on juveniles. Marine mammals, sharks, and other large fish prey on adults. 

Research

  • Studying bottom-dwelling fishes and crabs of the Eastern Bering Sea Shelf
  • The coastal states and treaty tribes conduct port-side monitoring programs that 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.

Last updated: 09/19/2018