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Scopthalmus maximus. Turbot is a large meaty flat fish much prized by chefs. The turbot is a fast growing and powerful flatfish growing to a maximum size of one meter although specimens this large are rarely caught. 

Sustainability Overview

Very little is known about the state of Turbot stocks in our area. They are a relatively rare species and landings to Cornish ports have decreased in recent years although this may be due to reduced fleet size. Discards of juvenile turbot is a problem in trawl fisheries.  Turbot is highly prized and the majority is caught by gill nets set on the seabed (tangle or trammel nets) and trawls. Management is poor as catches are not limited by quota, and better science is needed to assess the sustainability of this species. It is advised to avoid eating turbot untill managment and scientific advise improves sustainability of this fishery.

In 2021 a total of 119 tonnes of turbot were landed to Cornish ports with a value of £1.6 million (MMO data).

Updated July 2023

Sustainability ratings for this species

Gill Netting

Celtic Sea and Western Channel

Tangle nets and Trammel nets are two slightly different types of gill net used to target turbot in Cornish waters. Both have issues with by catch of non target species such as sharks and cetaceans. Pingers are increasingly used and are mandatory outside the 6 mile limit.

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Demersal Trawl

Celtic sea and Western Channel

Demersal trawls are large nets that are pulled through the water with the bottom edge of the net touching the seabed. At each edge the net is pulled open by metal ‘trawl doors’. Sometimes referred to as Otter trawling.

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Beam Trawling

Celtic sea and Western Channel

Beam trawls are nets with a steel beam that holds the net open. The belly of the net is made of chains and the upper surface of the net is mesh. Beam trawlers pull two nets along the seabed simultaneously.

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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.


Turbot are a large fast growing species of flatfish and a visual predator. They feed on a range of species of crustaceans and fish and can be described as a ‘top predator’. They can reach a size of around 30cm in just 3 years.  They become sexually mature at this age and in most parts of its range spawns in April to August, females each producing up to 10-15 million eggs. Turbot can grow up to 1m in length and a weight of 25kg and can live for up to 25 years. Turbot are typically found at a depth range of 10 to 70m, on sandy, rocky or mixed bottoms. Turbot appears to be a rather sedentary species, although some adult migration may occur. 

Stock Info

In our waters very little studies have been carried out so the size of the turbot stock is unknown. Landings data show that around 150 tonnes of turbot are caught each year although the landings have decreased from around 300 tonnes in 1994.(MMO data) (this may be due to reduced fishing effort and not an indication of size of stocks).
In the north sea where more studies have been carried out stocks are low but appear to be increasing slightly (ICES) and fishing pressure has reduced but even here there is not enough data to accurately predict the state of the stock. Landings dipped from just under 200 tonnes in 2017 to 119 tonnes in 2021.


Turbot is a non-quota species and fishing effort is not limited. (in the North sea there is a combined TAC for Brill and turbot but there is no Quota in other areas of the NE Atlantic) There is a minimum landing size of 30cm within Cornish waters. Turbot is a valuable by catch in trawl fisheries and gill net fisheries. The Sole recovery plan and the Trevose closure may help turbot stock. According to Seafish RASS turbot stocks may have also benefited from reduced fishing effort as a result of the Cod and sole recovery plans and restriction of fishing effort in over 15m vessls in Western waters effort to 2002 levels  (Council Regulation 1954/2002; aims to cap effort at 2002 levels) 

Capture Info

Gill nets are monofilament nylon nets that are set on the seabed and left to fish. The size of mesh and the length of ‘soak time’ is specific to the species of fish being targeted. Local fisheries by laws govern mesh sizes within the Cornwall Inshore fisheries district and out side of the 12 mile limit EU regulations govern the allowable mesh sizes. By regulating the mesh size undersized or non-target species are more likely to escape capture. 
There are however occasional issues with entanglement of non-target species such as pink sea fans and occasionally seals and cetaceans such as dolphins and porpoises. If nets become snagged on the seabed or get towed away by other fishermen they are lost. Lost nets can continue to fish and are termed ‘ghost nets’. The length of time they are dangerous to wildlife depends on tidal flow and fishermen argue that strong current will roll the nets until they are no longer a threat but in practice this depends on many factors.  


MMO landings data
Project inshore pre assessment database
Seafish ERAEF 2014
Seafish Species guide Turbot

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