Megrim

Megrim
  • Scientific name: Lepidorhombus whiffiagonis
  • Also known as: Whiffy, Whiff, Megrim Sole, Cornish Sole
  • Size: Up to 2ft and 4lbs.
  • UK minimum size: 10ins/25cm
  • UK shore caught record: 2lb 6oz
  • IUCN Status: LC (Least Concern)
  • Distribution: Quite common around most of the deep, offshore waters around the UK and northern Europe.
  • Feeds on: Small fish and crustaceans.
  • Description: Slim bodied, oval shaped left-eyed flatfish. Body is pale orange/yellow to light brown, and can have a translucent appearance. Dorsal and anal fin start far back on the body and run right along to the tail and be edged in black. Head and mouth are relatively large in relation to the rest of the body.

Habitat and Distribution

Megrim is a deep sea flatfish that rarely comes into water shallower than fifty metres, and is more commonly found in water of 200-300 metres, but can be found all of the way down to over 1000 metres, explaining why it is a rare catch by shore anglers. Megrim are usually found over muddy or sandy seabeds and avoid heavy or broken ground or areas with a lot of weed. Megrim feed on small fishes which live on or near the seabed, and will also take crustaceans and dislodged shellfish. They are found in deep water all around the British Isles with their range extending from Scandinavian and Icelandic waters all of the way down to the coastline of northern Africa and into the Mediterranean. Megrim are believed to migrate to the west of the British Isles to spawn, while there are separate spawning grounds in the Mediterranean.

Megrim as a Commercial Fish

Megrim is a fish of economic importance and is targeted by commercial vessels, with Spanish and French vessels taking the majority of megrim. It is caught by deep-sea bottom and otter trawls. It is seen as a responsible choice of fish as stocks are thought to be stable. There have been calls for UK consumers to eat more megrim to take pressure off the over-exploited big five species (cod, haddock, tuna, salmon and prawns). Currently, around 90% of megrim caught in UK waters is exported to continental Europe. However, in some fisheries where more traditional table fish such as cod and haddock is targeted there is a major problem with vessels catching large amounts of megrim as bycatch. Despite this megrim are classed as a species of Least Concern by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, and the Marine Conservation Society state that the “stock [of megrim] is assessed as healthy and is being harvested sustainably.

Second Species of Megrim

Four-spot megrim

Four-spot megrim

There is a second species of megrim in UK waters, the four-spot megrim (Lepidorhombus boscii). This species is very similar to L. Whiffiagonis but can be distinguished by the spots at the rear of the fins. In commercial catches the two species of megrim are usually classed together as a single species.

Megrim Caught on Rod and Line

Due to their deep water habitat megrim are an immensely rare catch on rod and line, with the vast majority of anglers who catch this species doing so inadvertently while targeting other fish. The shore caught record was set in 1987 when F. J. Williams caught a 2lb 6oz megrim from Porthcurno on the south coast of Cornwall. This species is caught slightly more often by boat anglers, with the current boat caught record being a fish of 3lb 12oz, caught by in Loch Gairloch in the Scottish highlands in 1973.

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