Pleuronectes platessa 

Scope: Global
Language: English

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Taxonomy [top]

Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family
Animalia Chordata Actinopterygii Pleuronectiformes Pleuronectidae

Scientific Name: Pleuronectes platessa Linnaeus, 1758
Regional Assessments:
Common Name(s):
English European Plaice, Flatfish, Fluke, Hen Fish, Plaice-fluke
French Carrelet, Plie, Plie Commune, Plie D'Europe
Spanish Solla, Solla Europea
Platessa latus Cuvier, 1829
Platessa platessa (Linnaeus, 1758)
Platessa vulgaris Cloquet, 1826
Pleuronectes borealis Faber, 1828
Taxonomic Source(s): Eschmeyer, W.N. (ed.). 2015. Catalog of Fishes. Updated 7 January 2015. Available at: (Accessed: 7 January 2015).
Taxonomic Notes: Despite the occurrence of separate sub-populations of plaice within the continental shelf populations, no significant differentiation was found using microsatellites (Hoarau et al. 2002, Was et al. 2010, Watts et al. 2010). Only mitochondrial DNA, which has a higher resolution, revealed that the North Sea-Irish Sea samples were weakly distinguishable from Norway, the Baltic and the Bay of Biscay samples (Hoarau et al. 2004). Clear genetic differentiation was found between the populations of Iceland, the Faroes, and the continental shelf of western Europe, that are separated by deep ocean channels (Hoarau et al. 2002, Was et al. 2010).

Assessment Information [top]

Red List Category & Criteria: Least Concern ver 3.1
Year Published: 2014
Date Assessed: 2013-10-22
Assessor(s): Freyhof, J.
Reviewer(s): Rijnsdorp, A.D., Turnock, S., Comeros-Raynal, M. & Allen, D.J.
Contributor(s): Rijnsdorp, A.D.
A widespread species which is vulnerable to over-fishing in the sea. However the species has recovered from historical over-fishing in the 1970-1980s, and spawning biomass is increasing. The species is widely distributed and proved to be resilient to over-exploitation, and is considered Least Concern.
Previously published Red List assessments:

Geographic Range [top]

Range Description:Distribution is from the western Mediterranean (including a small part of the northwestern Moroccan coast) and along all European coasts to the White and Barents Seas; absent from northern Baltic, Black and Caspian Seas. Regularly reported from freshwaters in the Kanin Peninsula (Barents Sea). Occasionally reported from freshwater outside Barents Sea basin, but individuals might be misidentified P. flesus.
Countries occurrence:
Belgium; Denmark; Faroe Islands; France (France (mainland)); Germany; Gibraltar; Guernsey; Iceland; Ireland; Isle of Man; Italy (Italy (mainland), Sardegna, Sicilia); Jersey; Latvia; Lithuania; Monaco; Morocco; Netherlands; Norway; Poland; Portugal (Portugal (mainland)); Russian Federation; Spain (Spain (mainland)); Sweden; United Kingdom (Great Britain, Northern Ireland)
FAO Marine Fishing Areas:
Atlantic – northeast; Atlantic – eastern central; Mediterranean and Black Sea
Additional data:
Upper depth limit (metres):500
Range Map:Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.

Population [top]

An abundant species. Population biomass is highest in the North Sea (Wimpenny 1953).

Population trends
The species is exploited throughout its range. Exploitation at unsustainable levels in the 1970s and 1980s reduced the spawning stock biomass to critical levels. Since then the fishing pressure has been reduced and the spawning stock biomass increased during the last 5-10 years in all stocks (ICES 2013). In the North Sea, the spawning stock biomass increased in 2012 to the highest level observed since 1957 (ICES 2013).
Current Population Trend:Increasing
Additional data:
Population severely fragmented:No

Habitat and Ecology [top]

Habitat and Ecology:Habitat
This is a medium sized flatfish that is distributed in waters from less than 1 m down to c.100 m, although occasionally specimens may be found down to 500 m. Small fish are concentrated in shallow waters, while large fish occur in deeper waters. Found in sea water and in estuaries, rarely entering freshwaters.

Spawns at sea, in January-June, in deep water, at temperatures of around 6°C. Eggs and larvae are pelagic and drift with current. At about 10 mm SL, left eye moves to right side, pigmentation develops, and juveniles switch to a benthic habit.

The maximum size is 90-100 cm (Muus and Nielsen 1999). The maximum age observed in the biological samples taken routinely in the North Sea since the 1950s are 30 years in females and 25 years in males (A.D. Rijnsdorp pers. comm. 2013). Age at maturation is 2-3 years in males and 4-5 years in females, with plaice from northern areas maturing at an older age and larger size than plaice from the south (Rijnsdorp 1989). Length and age at maturation has gradually reduced since the beginning of the 20th century, most likely due to a fisheries-induced evolutionary change (Grift et al. 2003, van Walraven et al. 2010).

The species has a complex life cycle with life stages inhabiting specific and spatially segregated habitats (Wimpenny 1953). Spawning occurs in offshore waters (Harding et al. 1978, Nielsen et al. 2004, Fox et al. 2000, Taylor et al. 2007). Eggs and larvae are pelagic until metamorphosis. At metamorphosis the larvae move to the sea bed and migrate to their nursery grounds in estuaries and along sandy coasts (Rijnsdorp et al. 1985). Juveniles spend their first years of life in the coastal nurseries and gradually move to deeper waters. In the White Sea, juveniles enter freshwater to forage in mid-June in the Kanin Peninsula. Once mature, the animals migrate between spawning grounds and feeding areas (Hunter et al. 2004, Bolle et al. 2005). Juvenile plaice show a clear preference for fine sandy sediments, which allows them to bury in the sediment and hide for predators (Gibson 2005, Gibson and Robb 2000). The preference for sandy sediments remains during the entire lifespan, although older age groups may be found on coarser sand.

Plaice is a benthivore feeding on a variety of benthic invertebrates such as bivalves, polychaetes, crustaceans (e.g. amphipods, mysids and small shrimps). Large plaice feed on molluscs and sandeels (de Clerck and Buseyne 1989, Rijnsdorp and Vingerhoed 2001).

Due to the specific habitat requirements of the early demersal stages of plaice in combination with the relative small size of these habitats, nursery habitat may limit the population size that can occur in a specific sea area (Rijnsdorp et al. 1992, Gibson 1994, van der Veer et al. 2000).
Systems:Freshwater; Marine
Continuing decline in area, extent and/or quality of habitat:No
Movement patterns:Not a Migrant

Use and Trade [top]

Use and Trade: The species is harvested for human consumption, and for sport fishing.

Threats [top]

Major Threat(s): The species is currently recovering from over-exploitation, and spawning stock biomass shows an increasing trend over the last 5-10 years (ICES 2013). The species is mainly exploited in mixed fisheries using bottom trawls, and locally in a directed fisheries using gill nets. Substantial numbers of undersized plaice are caught in small meshed fisheries directed at brown shrimps, sole and Nephrops (ICES 2013).

Oil and gas exploitation occur in the distribution area of the species. Since the species critically depend on the size and quality of their nursery grounds, any anthropogenic activities that adversely impact nursery areas will have a negative impact on the species.

Conservation Actions [top]

Conservation Actions:

The species is currently recovering from over-exploitation that occurred in the 1970 and 1980s; spawning stock biomass has shown an increasing trend over the last 5-10 years (ICES 2013). The species occurs in numerous marine protected areas throughout its range.

Classifications [top]

5. Wetlands (inland) -> 5.1. Wetlands (inland) - Permanent Rivers/Streams/Creeks (includes waterfalls)
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:No
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.4. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Sandy
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.5. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Sandy-Mud
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.6. Marine Neritic - Subtidal Muddy
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes
9. Marine Neritic -> 9.10. Marine Neritic - Estuaries
suitability:Suitable season:resident major importance:Yes

In-Place Research, Monitoring and Planning
In-Place Land/Water Protection and Management
  Occur in at least one PA:Yes
In-Place Species Management
In-Place Education
3. Energy production & mining -> 3.1. Oil & gas drilling
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Causing/Could cause fluctuations ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 1. Ecosystem stresses -> 1.2. Ecosystem degradation
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.3. Indirect species effects -> 2.3.7. Reduced reproductive success

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.2. Intentional use: (large scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Past, Unlikely to Return ♦ scope:Whole (>90%) ♦ severity:Slow, Significant Declines ⇒ Impact score:Past Impact 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

5. Biological resource use -> 5.4. Fishing & harvesting aquatic resources -> 5.4.4. Unintentional effects: (large scale) [harvest]
♦ timing:Ongoing ♦ scope:Unknown ♦ severity:Unknown ⇒ Impact score:Unknown 
→ Stresses
  • 2. Species Stresses -> 2.1. Species mortality

♦  Food - human
 Local : ✓   National : ✓  International : ✓ 

♦  Sport hunting/specimen collecting
 Local : ✓ 

Bibliography [top]

Bolle, L., Hunter, E., Rijnsdorp, A., Pastoors, M., Metcalfe, J., and Reynolds, J. 2005. Do tagging experiments tell the truth? Using electronic tags to evaluate conventional tagging data. ICES Journal of Marine Science 62(2): 236-246.

de Clerck, R. and Buseyne, D. 1989. On the feeding of plaice, Pleuronectes platessa L. in the southern North Sea. International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, Copenhagen.

Fox, C.J., O'Brien, C.M., Dickey-Collas, M. and Nash, R.D.M. 2000. Patterns in the spawning of cod (Gadus morhua L.), sole (Solea solea L.) and plaice (Pleuronectes platessa L.) in the Irish Sea as determined by generalized additive modelling. Fisheries Oceanography 9(1): 33-49.

Gibson, R.N. 1994. Impact of Habitat Quality and Quantity on the Recruitment of Juvenile Flatfishes. Netherlands Journal of Sea Research 32: 191-206.

Gibson, R.N. 2005. The behaviour of flatfishes. In: R.N. Gibson (ed.), Flatfishes. Biology and exploitation, pp. 213-239. Blackwell Science Ltd., Oxford.

Gibson, R.N. and Robb, L. 2000. Sediment selection in juvenile plaice and its behavioural basis. Journal of Fish Biology 56(5): 1258-1275.

Grift, R.E., Rijnsdorp, A.D., Barot, S., Heino, M., and Dieckmann, U. 2003. Fisheries-induced trends in reaction norms for maturation in North Sea plaice. Marine Ecology-Progress Series 257: 247-257.

Harding, D., J.H. Nichols, and D.S. Tungate. 1978. The spawning of the plaice (Pleuronectes platessa L.) in the southern North Sea and English Channel. Rapports et Procès-Verbaux des Réunions Conseil International pour l'Exploration de la Mer 172: 102-113.

Hoarau, G., Piquet, A.M.-T.; van der Veer, H.W., Rijnsdorp, A.D., Stam, W.T., and Olsen, J.L. 2004. Population structure of plaice (Pleuronectes platessa L.) in northern Europe: a comparison of resolving power between microsatellites and mitochondrial DNA data. Journal of Sea Research 51(3-4): 183-190.

Hoarau, G., Rijnsdorp, A.D., Van der Veer, H.W., Stam, W.T., and Olsen, J.L. 2002. Population structure of plaice (Pleuronectes platessa L.) in northern Europe: microsatellites revealed large-scale spatial and temporal homogeneity. Molecular Ecology 11(7): 1165-1176.

Hunter, E., Metcalfe, J.D., Arnold, G.P. and Reynolds, J.D. 2004. Impacts of migratory behaviour on population structure in North Sea plaice. Journal of Animal Ecology 73(2): 377-385.

ICES. 2013. Latest Advice 2013. Copenhagen Available at: (Accessed: 21 October 2013).

IUCN. 2014. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2014.1. Available at: (Accessed: 12 June 2014).

Kottelat, M. and Freyhof, J. 2007. Handbook of European Freshwater Fishes. Publications Kottelat, Cornol, Switzerland.

Muus, B.J. and Nielsen, J.G. 1999. Sea fish. Scandinavian Fishing Year Book, Hedehusene, Denmark.

Nielsen, E., Støttrup, J.G, Heilmann, J., and MacKenzie, B.R. 2004. The spawning of plaice Pleuronectes platessa in the Kattegat. Journal of Sea Research 51(3-4): 219-228.

Rijnsdorp, A.D. 1989. Maturation of male and female North Sea plaice (Pleuronectes platessa L.). Journal du Conseil international pour l'Exploration de la Mer 1989(46): 35-51.

Rijnsdorp, A.D. and Vingerhoed, B. 2001. Feeding of plaice Pleuronectes platessa L. and sole Solea solea (L.) in relation to the effects of bottom trawling. Journal of Sea Research 45(3-4): 219-229.

Rijnsdorp, A.D., van Beek, F.A., Flatman, S., Miller, J.M., Riley, J.D., Giret, M., de Clerk, R. 1992. Recruitment of sole, Solea solea (L.), in the Northeast Atlantic. Netherlands Journal of Sea Research 29: 173-192.

Rijnsdorp, A.D., van Stralen, M., and van der Veer, H.W. 1985. Selective tidal transport of North Sea plaice larvae Pleuronectes platessa in coastal nursery areas. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 114: 461-470.

Sakamoto, K. 1984. Interrelationships of the family Pleuronectidae (Pisces: Pleuronectiformes)..

Taylor, N., Fox, C.J., Bolle, L.J., Dickey-Collas, M., Fossum, P., Kraus, G., Munk, P., Rolf, N., van Damme, C.J.G., and Vorbach, M. 2007. Results of the spring 2004 North Sea ichthyoplankton surveys. ICES Cooperative Research Report. Copenhagen.

van der Veer, H.W., Berghahn, R., Miller, J.M., Rijnsdorp, A.D. 2000. Recruitment in flatfish, with special emphasis on North Atlantic species: progress made by the Flatfish Symposia. ICES Journal of Marine Science 57: 202-215.

van Walraven, L., Mollet, F.M., van Damme, C.J.G., and Rijnsdorp, A.D. 2010. Fisheries-induced evolution in growth, maturation and reproductive investment of the sexually dimorphic North Sea plaice (Pleuronectes platessa L.). Journal of Sea Research 64(1-2): 85-93.

Was, A., Gosling, E., and Hoarau, G. 2010. Microsatellite analysis of plaice (Pleuronectes platessa L.) in the NE Atlantic: weak genetic structuring in a milieu of high gene flow. Marine Biology 157(3): 447-462.

Watts, P.C., Kay, S.M., Wolfenden, D., Fox, C.J., Geffen, A.J., Kemp, S.J., and Nash, R.D.M. 2010. Temporal patterns of spatial genetic structure and effective population size in European plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) along the west coast of Scotland and in the Irish Sea. Ices Journal of Marine Science 67(4): 607-616.

Wimpenny, R.S. 1953. The plaice. Arnold, London.

Citation: Freyhof, J. 2014. Pleuronectes platessa. In: . The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2014: e.T135690A50018800. . Downloaded on 24 May 2018.
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