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Flatfish belong to the order Pleuronectoformes. There are more than 500 species of flatfish. Flatfish live on and partly in the seabed, only the halibut swims higher up in the water column. Flatfish have an oblong, flat shape and their eyes on one side. The upper-side, the eye-side, of the flatfish has a camouflage colour and the underside is white. It may seem like flatfish swim on their belly, however, in fact, they are laying on their side. Flatfish larvae have a regular fish shape, with eyes on each side and a vertical swimming mode. After 6 weeks, one of the eyes migrates upwards, over the head to the other side. From now own, the flatfish swims with their eyes up and their blind side facing the seabed.

The best known flatfish species in the Netherlands are sole and plaice. Other flatfish species that occur in the North Sea are the common dab, halibut, turbot, brill, European flounder and lemon sole. Flatfish are caught with beam trawls, pulse trawls or demersal otter trawls.



Brill is a flatfish that can be found in shallow water on sandy bottoms. Brill can be found in the northeast Atlantic Ocean at depths of 5 to 50 metres. This species is closely related to turbot but is much smaller and has a leaner shape. Brill can reach a maximum length of 75 cm and can weigh up to 7 kilograms.



Scophthalmus rhombus

Atlantic Ocean, north-east (FAO 27)
Deelgebieden: North Sea

Farming- / Catch method

Beam trawl

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Fish stocks and fishing pressure
Ecosystem effects
Fishery management
Final assessment
Explanation assessment

There is too little known about this species to do reliable [stock estimates], but the amount of brills in the North Sea seems to be increasing. Because brill is mainly bycatch in the [beam trawl] fishery on plaice and sole, the supply of brill is controlled by the activity of this fleet. Although the [fishing effort] of the beam trawl fleet has more than halved, the landings of brill have kept stable since 1998. This suggests that the stock is increasing. Due to the high market value and the lack of a minimum [landing size], brill is almost never discarded.

In the beam trawl fishery there is an average discard of half of the catch, often dead. This is because the catch regulations are tuned for the target species of sole. For sole there is a smaller minimum [mesh size], which contributes to a large bycatch of undersized plaice and other species. This fishing method also impacts the seabed and bottom life. Intensive fishing with beam trawls leads on the long term to a change in [species composition] in the sea.

There is no European management plan for brill formulated. There is a joint [catch limit] for brill and turbot. This management tool is however not suitable to regulate [fishing pressure] on bycatch species, because it can lead to the discard of marketable fish.


ASC label

Fish with the ASC label is farmed in a sustainable manner.

MSC label

Fish with the MSC label is caught sustainably.

Good fish

This fish is not being overfished or is being responsibly farmed, with minimal impact on the environment.

Second choice

This fish is a second choice. There are still some improvements to be made in this fishery or fish farm.


Do not buy this fish. It's being overfished or the way it's farmed or caught has a negative impact on the environment.


This fish is unwillingly caught while fishing for a different species. They are underused and should be eaten more.


GlobalG.A.P. certified farms are doing a step in the right direction in terms of sustainability. A few species with this label are getting a better score on the VISwijzer.


Organic standards are the strictest when it comes to fish feed. They also require certain measures for animal well-being.

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