Nine decades of North Sea sole and plaice distribution

G.H. Engelhard, J.K. Pinnegar, L.T. Kell, A.D. Rijnsdorp

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

89 Citations (Scopus)


Recent studies based mainly on research survey data suggest that within the North Sea, sole Solea solea and plaice Pleuronectes platessa have exhibited distribution shifts in recent decades—on average southward for sole and northward to deeper waters for plaice. Various hypotheses may account for such shifts, including climate change effects and more intensive fishing in southern and shallower waters; but the relatively short time-span of datasets analysed so far (~3 decades) has complicated the separation of these two effects. We have made use of a unique dataset of catch and effort data for British North Sea trawlers; these cover nine decades (spanning the period 1913–2007) and are spatially detailed by ICES rectangle (0.5° latitude by 1° longitude). We quantify, for the first time, long-term distribution changes of North Sea sole and plaice over a period approaching a century, and demonstrate that the distribution shift in plaice was attributable to climate change rather than to fishing, but that both climate and fishing played a role in the distribution shift of sole. The discussion also highlights the potential impact of additional factors, including eutrophication, prey availability, and habitat modification
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1090-1104
JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • atlantic shelf seas
  • climate-change
  • pleuronectes-platessa
  • community structure
  • fish assemblage
  • bristol channel
  • marine fishes
  • trends
  • oscillation
  • recruitment


Dive into the research topics of 'Nine decades of North Sea sole and plaice distribution'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this