European plaice (Pleuronectes platessa)

European plaice, head detail
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European plaice fact file

European plaice description

GenusPleuronectes (1)

The plaice (Pleuronectes platessa) is Europe's most important commercial flatfish (3). Adults have a roughly diamond-shaped outline (4), and are readily identified by their bright orange or red spots. The upperparts are greenish-brown, the underside is white (2), and they are able to change their colour to match that of their surroundings (4). In all flatfish, the larval stage undergoes a remarkable change in which the left eye moves around the head to the right side; this strange adaptation enables the fish to lie flat on the seabed (3).

Carrelet, Plie, Plie Commune, Plie D'Europe.
Solla, Solla Europea.
Length: up to 100 cm (2)

European plaice biology

European plaice are active mainly at night, when they feed on molluscs and polychaete worms (2), which are crushed with the strong jaws (5). During the day they tend to lie hidden, often partially buried in the sediment (4).

Newly hatched larvae spend around six weeks close to the surface of the water before undergoing the transformation into adults (3). In the first year of life, juvenile plaice tend to live in shallow water and can often be found close to beaches (4).


European plaice range

The European plaice is found in the northeast Atlantic from Greenland and Norway as far south as Morocco. It also occurs in the Mediterranean, the White Sea in Russia, and around Estonia (2).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

European plaice habitat

The European plaice lives on the seabed, at depths of between 10 and 50 metres, usually on sand, gravel, or mud (4).


European plaice status

The European plaice is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1)

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


European plaice threats

The overfishing of stocks of commercial fish is a severe and complex problem around the world, with many well-known species including cod and European plaice in serious decline and at risk of complete collapse (6). As the technology involved in fishing has improved and the number of faster, more efficient boats has increased, populations of fish have decreased further and have been unable to reproduce fast enough to compensate for the massive losses (6). The problem can be summed up as: 'too many boats chasing too few fish' (7).


European plaice conservation

In Europe, the European Union is responsible for conserving and managing marine fish and their fisheries, with control by the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP) (7). However, in the past the CFP has not effectively controlled the fishing fleets of the EU; furthermore there are complex socio-economic issues involved in this controversial issue, with entire communities wholly dependent on the fishing industry (7). The International Council for the Exploration of the Seas (ICES) advises governments on the status of fish stocks, yet often their warnings have gone unheeded (6). The British Government has limited powers to initiate marine fisheries management measures. However, a grouped Action Plan for commercial marine fish has been produced under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. This aims to minimise the collapse of local stocks of a number of commercially exploited marine fish (7).

The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.
There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Find out more

For more on the European plaice:

For more on European fisheries:



This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:



Stage in an animal's lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
Of the stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
A diverse group of invertebrates, mainly marine, that have one or all of the following; a horny, toothed ribbon in the mouth (the radula), a shell covering the upper surface of the body, and a mantle or mantle cavity with a type of gill. Includes snails, slugs, shellfish, octopuses and squid.


  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2011)
  2. Fishbase Species account (Jan 2003):
  3. Burnie, D. (2001) Animal. Dorling-Kindersley, London.
  4. Picton, B.E. & Morrow, C. (2002) [in] Encyclopedia of Marine Life of Britain and Ireland. (January 2003):
  5. Buczacki, S. (2002) Fauna Britannica. Hamlyn, London.
  6. Brown, P. (2000) Overfishing brings more bad news to struggling ports. Guardian Unlimited (January 2003):,7369,411763,00.html
  7. UKBAP- Grouped Action Plan for commercial marine fish. (January 2003):

Image credit

European plaice, head detail  
European plaice, head detail

© Jane Burton /

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