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Whiting in the North Sea (ICES subarea IV), Seine net


Merlangius merlangus

Content last updated
22nd Feb 2017

Whiting in Sub-area IV (North Sea) and Division VIId (Eastern English Channel)

European Union


Whiting (Merlangius merlangus) is a widely distributed species that inhibits the waters of the northeast Atlantic Ocean, the Barents Sea, the Black Sea, the Aegean Sea and the Adriatic Sea at depths ranging from 25 to 200 m. This species forms large shoals over a variety of substrates including mud, gravel, sand and rock throughout the North Sea, Skagerrak and Kattegat. Adult whiting are highly abundant in the south of the Shetland Isles during winter. During summer, the entire southern half of the North Sea is densely populated by adult whiting as is the area off the Scottish coast. Mature adults migrate inshore into spawning grounds in the North Sea during winter. Spawning occurs in shallow estuarine and coastal waters typically during spring. Large females produce up to a million eggs and small fry can live underneath jellyfish for protection (Lynam and Brierley, 2007). Juveniles inhabit nursery areas for the first year of life in the German Bight and off the Dutch coast, where they rapidly grow before migrating into deeper offshore waters. Maturity occurs at around 2 to 4 years of age or a length of about 30 cm, and this species can live up to 20 years (Froese and Pauly, 2011). Whiting feed on shrimps, crabs, molluscs, small fish (e.g. sandeels), polychaete worms and cephalopods (Hislop, 1991). They are a major component in the diet of many piscivorous fish and marine mammals.

A large mesh (120 mm; TR1) fishery operates in the northern North Sea and a small mesh (70-99 mm; TR2) fishery operates in the southern North Sea and the eastern English Channel (ICES, 2015). Whiting are mainly caught by demersal otter trawlers along with cod (Gadus morhua), haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus), plaice (Pleuronectes platessa), sole (Solea solea) and Nephrops (Nephrops norvegicus), although a small proportion is also taken with seine nets. This species is taken as bycatch in industrial fisheries for sandeels (Ammodytes spp.), Nephrops and Norway pout (Trisopterus esmarkii).



Froese, R., Pauly, D. Eds. 2011. (Merlangius merlangus, Linnaeus, 1758). FishBase (On-line). [http://www.fishbase.org/summary/29] [Accessed 28-Dec-15]

Hislop, J.R.G., Robb, A.P., Bell, M.A., and Armstrong, D.W. 1991. The diet and food consumption of whiting (Merlangius merlangus) in the North Sea. ICES Journal of Marine Science 48: 139-156.

ICES. 2015. Whiting in Subarea IV (North Sea) and Division VIId (Eastern Channel). ICES Advice on fishing opportunities, catch and effort. Greater North Sea and Celtic Sea Ecoregions. Published 30 June 2015. ICES Advice 2015, Book 6; Chapter 6.3.56.

Lynam, C.P., and Brierley, A.S. 2007. Enhanced survival of 0-group gadoid fish under jellyfish umbrellas. Marine Biology 150: 1397-1401.

Stock Status

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Whiting in the North Sea has been scored a low risk. Spawning-stock biomass (SSB) has fluctuated around MSY Btrigger. Fishing mortality (F) has been above FMSY throughout the time-series.

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The management of Whiting in Sub-area IV (North Sea) and Division VIId (eastern English Channel) has been scored a low risk. This is because management decisions are informed by an annual stock assessment, catches are controlled through a permitted total allowable catch and a comprehensive regulatory framework is in place. Control measures have not been entirely effective in maintaining spawning stock biomass at historic levels despite a reduction in fishing mortality. Stock advice is currently provided for Sub-area IV and Division VIId combined while the European Commission sets the TAC separately for Sub-area IV and Division VIIb-k.

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The bycatch risk of this fishery has been scored a high risk. This is because discards vary between 15 – 40% in the demersal seine net fishery. Demersal seine nets are an active form of fishing gear that have the potential to take relatively high quantities of bycatch in certain circumstances.

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The habitat risk of this fishery has been scored a low risk. This is because demersal seine nets have limited interaction with seabed habitat compared to other fishing activities. Demersal seine nets anchored to the seabed have the potential to cause surface abrasion of biogenic features under certain circumstances.

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Type Current Risk Status Outlook Reason


Low Stable

Fishing effort reduction in the last few years imply that the stock status is likely to remain stable.


Low Stable

The CFP is going through reform and there is some uncertainty on how this will impact fisheries management in the North Sea, particularly due to the introduction of a landings obligation. However, management is likely to remain stable.


High Stable

There is no extensive research aiming at reducing bycatch in demersal seining.


Low Improving

Technical and spatial management measures are under development and will likely reduce the risk further.

Nutritional Information

81 (kcal)
0.7 (g)
0.1 (g)
0 (g)
0.23 (g)

*per 100 g

Nutrition information per 100g raw product

Rich in Omega-3 | Protein | Vitamin B12 | Selenium | Iodine

Good Source Of Riboflavin | Potassium | Phosphorus

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