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White Monkfish

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White Monkfish


Lophius piscatorius. Despite being a terrifying looking creature monkfish (or anglerfish as they are known) are beloved by chefs for their meaty white flesh that is highly versatile. The value of this fish is ever increasing. Monkfish are predatory fish whose strategy is to lie in wait on the seabed, whilst a modified dorsal fin-ray equipped with a worm-like lure attracts smaller fish. The monkfish is able to leap into action, and with its incredibly wide toothy mouth can engulf its prey easily in one gulp.

Sustainability Overview

There are two species of monkfish landed to Cornish ports, the white monkfish Lophius piscatorius and the black bellied monkfish Lophius budegassa. Stocks of white monkfish are better studied and are healthy with stable landings and a reduced level of fishing in recent years. Less is known about black bellied monkfish. Monkfish are long lived and vulnerable to fishing effort but reduction in quotas and restrictions on deep water netting for monkfish have improved the sustainability of this stock. The use of acoustic pingers in all gill net fisheries outside the 6 mile limit have also reduced the problem of accidental by-catch of cetaceans. Cornwall’s fishing fleet is small scale in comparison to those of other parts of Europe. Cornish fishermen have cooperated fully with fisheries scientists in improving selectivity of gear, and carried out a major research project on Western anglerfish between 2003 and 2012 until government funding was pulled. There is an EU multiannual Management Plan for management of monkfish which prevents overfishing however the two species are managed together which is not ideal. A Fisheries Improvement Plan (FIP) has been set up by the industry with the aim of improving sustainabiliy of the Western and Channel Monkfish fishery. Best choice is net or demersal trawl caught monkfish landed by day boats to Cornish ports. 

In 2021 a total of 1560 tonnes of monkfish (both species combined) were landed to Cornish ports with a value of £5.54 million (MMO data).

Updated July 2023

Sustainability ratings for this species

Demersal Trawl

Cornwall areas VIIe- h

A large trawl held open by paravane trawl doors, the open net is then pulled along in contact with the seabed.

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Gill Netting

Cornwall areas VIIe- h

Caught using monofilament tangle nets set on the seabed.

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Beam Trawling

Cornwall areas VIIe- h

Caught using heavy beam trawl nets that are dragged over the seabed.

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How we rate fish

Cornwall Good Seafood Guide rates fish on sustainability using a scale of 1 to 5.

1, 2 and 3 are recommended, Fish to avoid are rated 5.

We use the system devised by the Marine Conservation Society (MCS) so our scores are comparable with the scores produced by MCS for the UK and fisheries from all around the world. For more information on scoring click here.


Monkfish are a slow moving fish that wait on the seabed for its prey, small fish, which are lured to its huge mouth using a modified dorsal fin-ray as a lure. Two species of monkfish are caught by Cornish fishermen. The white monkfish Lophius piscatorius and the less common, black bellied monkfish Lophius budegassa.  Monkfish are a long-lived species.  Maximum reported age is 24 years. Females mature at 9-11 years at about 70 - 90cm, males at around 6 years at 50cms. Females can attain a length of 2m and a weight of 40kgs. Males rarely grow beyond 1m. Monkfish spawn between January and July, in deep water off the edge of the continental shelf, in water depths down to 1000m.  They do not spawn in the areas most commonly fished by Cornish fishermen. Eggs are released in a buoyant, gelatinous ribbon or 'egg veil' that may measure more than 10m in length. Monkfish are also found in coastal waters, with the continental shelf of the Cornish coast being an important area for juveniles. The species vulnerability score is high (72% for L.piscatorius). (Cheung et all 2009,

Stock Info

Latest ICES advice for monkfish shows that stocks are well above sustainable levels and that fishing effort has reduced significantly in the past 20 years and is now below maximum sustainable yeild. Managing monkfish is made slightly difficult due to the fact there are two speices of commercially important Monkfish that are both fished in the same fishery. Fortunately latest stock assessment for both species show that the stocks are healthy.
According to Seafish RASS the recruitment (survival rate of juveniles joining the population) fluctuates, and good years for this were 2008, 2011, and 2012. This explains why there appear to be more small monkfish on the fishing grounds in 2014. Fluctuation of populations is natural and short term rises and falls in stocks should not be confused with long term trends. 
IUCN list monkfish as 'least concern' as a ‘common and widespread’ species with no known threats. Fishing effort across the EU fleet on monkfish has decreased. Landings per unit effort have increased (ICES).


Monk catches are limited across the European fleet by a quota system and are controlled by an EU multiannual Plan. A weakness of the current management is the combining of the two species into a mixed species quota. This risks potential overfishing of one species according to ICES.   There are CIFCA bylaws and MMO rules on mesh size and trawl design. All fishing vessels are licenced. All landings are recorded using electronic logbooks, and vessels are monitored by satellite VMS systems.  Vessels over 12 m fishing outside the 6 mile limit have to use 'pingers' to prevent cetacean bycatch. These are not mandatory for smaller vessels operating within the 6 mile limit. 
There is no minimum landing size for monkfish, but an EU Council Regulation (EC) No. 2406/96 laying down common marketing standards for certain fishery products fixes a minimum weight of 500g.
Fishing effort is restricted by Council Regulation (EC) No. 1954/2003 established measures for the management of fishing effort in a “biologically sensitive area” in Divisions VIIb, VIIj, VIIg, and VIIh. Effort exerted within the “biologically sensitive area” by the vessels of each EU Member Country may not exceed their average annual effort (calculated over the period 1998–2002). 
Tangle nets used to target monk and turbot have a minimum mesh size of 220mm (10.5”). 
A recent law has tightened up control of tangle net fishing on the shelf edge which should reduce risks to monkfish stocks. Regulation EU227/2013 ‘In light of advice from STECF, fishing with gillnets and entangling nets in ICES divisions IIIa, VIa, VIb, VIIb, VIIc, VIIj and VIIk and ICES sub-areas VIII, IX, X and XII east of 27° W in waters with a charted depth of more than 200 metres but less than 600 metres should only be allowed under certain conditions that provide protection for biologically sensitive deep-sea species.
Monkfish are subject to significant fishing mortality before attaining full maturity, and the majority of the anglerfish catch consists of young fish. Research surveys have shown an apparent increase in smaller fish on fishing grounds. Unreported landings in some fisheries in this area are thought to be substantial and there are indications that discarding has increased in recent years – this will be controlled through the reformed CFP and discard ban. 


Capture Info

Monkfish are caught using tangle nets, trammel nets, demersal trawls and beam trawls. 


ICES Advice for White Monkfish in Celtic Seas and English Channel 2023
Risk Assessment for Seafood Sourcing, Seafish, Monkfish
Western and Channel Monkfish, multiple gear FIP
MMO Data 
CEFAS studies 
Seafish Responsible sourcing guides, Monk Version 7.1. Oct 2013
Project Inshore pre assessment database
Seafish Ecological Risk assessment for fisheries south West
EU Regulation 227/2013. Ban on netting in water deeper than 200m. 
EU Regulation 2406/96 Common marketing standards.
EU Regulation 1954/2003 Restricting effort in biologically sensitive area.
Cefas 2013,Fisheries Science Partnership Programme 25
Western Anglerfish 2003–2012 Readdy.L. Ashworth. J.  & Lane. E. Lowestoft.
Seafish Risk Assessment for Sourcing Seafood
Cheung, W.W.L., T.J. Pitcher and D. Pauly, 2005. A fuzzy logic expert system to estimate intrinsic extinction vulnerabilities of marine fishes to fishing. Biol. Conserv. 124:97-111
IUCN red list,
Swarbrick.j. 1991 An investigation of the performance of tangle nets used of the North Coast of Cornwall, Seafish industry Authority report 391
ICES J. Mar. Sci. (2008) 65 (7): 1272-1280.
doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsn140

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