Ecosystem overviews

Greater North Sea Ecoregion

State of fish and cephalopods


​​​In the Greater North Sea the main forage fish (herring, sandeel, sprat, and Norway pout) feed mainly on plankton and are an important food s​​​ource in the foodweb. Smaller piscivorous fish (e.g. whiting Merlangius merlangus, haddock Melanogrammus aeglefinus, and grey gurnard Eutrigla gurnardus) and stocks that enter the North Sea only in specific seasons such as western horse mackerel Trachurus trachurus and mackerel, all eat forage fish and juvenile gadoids to a large extent. Benthic-feeding fish include all kinds of flatfish feeding on prey on or near the bottom. Fish that can eat large fish (>25 cm) are mainly large cod, saithe, and elasmobranchs, but species like seals and harbour porpoise are also important top predators. Trends in fishing pressure and stock size are presented in the ‘Selective extraction of species’ section. Natural mortality is now the main source of mortality for many commercial species due to a successful reduction in fishing mortality in recent years.


The most abundant species are Alloteuthis subulata and long-finned squid Loligo forbesii, which have seasonal migration patterns throughout and into the North Sea. The main exploited species is Loligo forbesii.​

Threatened and declining fish species in the Greater North Sea according to OSPAR:

Alosa alosa Allis shad
Anguilla anguilla European eel
Cetorhinus maximus Basking shark
Coregonus lavaretus oxyrinchus Houting
Dipturus batis (Raja batis) Common skate
Raja montagui (Dipturus montagui) Spotted ray
Gadus morhua Cod
Hippocampus guttulatus Long-snouted seahorse
Hippocampus hippocampus Short-snouted seahorse
Lamna nasus Porbeagle
Petromyzon marinus Sea lamprey
Raja clavata Thornback skate / ray
Rostroraja alba White skate
Salmo salar Salmon
Squalus acanthias [Northeast Atlantic] spurdog
Squatina squatina Angel shark​
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Greater North Sea Ecoregion

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