Demersal Fish

Demersal Fish montage

At the end of the 19th century, in order to monitor local fish populations, the Marine Biological Association (MBA) of Plymouth, UK, initiated scientific fish trawl surveys. These are some of the earliest fisheries independent surveys to take place in European waters. Surveys investigated species composition of the relatively shallow inshore waters as these areas were recognised as providing important habitat for juvenile life-stages of commercially exploited fish species, such as dab (Limanda limanda), lemon sole (Microstomus kitt), plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) and dover sole (Solea solea).

Demersal fish surveys have continued to the present day at three sites off the coast of Plymouth; the ICES station known as L4, Whitsand Bay and Bigbury Bay. Surveys are carried out with various demersal otter trawls and record species abundance, length and weight of inshore demersal fish and macroinvertebrates that inhabit relatively shallow waters (< 100m depth).

Historical data are becoming increasingly valuable to scientists, policy makers and environmental managers alike and these open access datasets provide over 65 years of highly temporal resolution data for over 100 species of demersal fish across a fine spatial scale. For queries and further information please contact Rachel Brittain (

The WCO is a partnership between Plymouth Marine Laboratory and The Marine Biological Association.

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Project funded by:

Research council’s National capability funding.