Nearly 1,800 soles have been tagged over the past year and a half in the Eastern English Channel and Southern North Sea. Tagging is performed aboard research vessels during the French and British summer scientific surveys, and aboard professional fishing boats during spring.

Above: Hauling sole nets during the two-day tagging programme on Eastbourne skipper Graham Doswell’s Halcyon.

sole tagging

Inserting a distinctive yellow Petersen tag on a sole after measuring its length.

Eastbourne skipper/owner Graham Doswell, embarked two French scientists for three days in early April, when 357 soles were tagged onboard the under -10m Halcyon NN 114.

“Our objective is to better understand the movements of soles in the Channel and southern North Sea,” said Marie Savina from IFREMER (the French Sea and Fisheries research institute), who coordinates the research programme SMAC. “Our preliminary results are available online, they are updated every time we receive recapture information.

“As usual, the success of the tagging programme depends heavily on the proportion of tags that are returned to us, which is why we are trying to inform as many fishermen as possible”. Yellow or red Petersen disc tags are pinned behind the head of soles. These tags are quite visible; they carry a number (from 1 to 5000), the mention IFREMER (the name of the research institute) and a phone number.

“Anyone finding a sole carrying one of these tags, should write down the tag number, the latitude and longitude of the catch, and if possible the length of the fish. If the tag is yellow, you can keep the sole, or release it if it looks lively.

“If the tag is red, please keep it for us if you can, even if it is below the minimal landing size. In all cases, please call the phone number on the tag, or contact us by e-mail: You can also contact our colleagues from CEFAS or MMO, who will transfer the information to us.”

sole tagging

Transit routes of the recaptured soles so far. From the website:

SMAC is a French research programme on the Eastern Channel sole, aiming at increasing our knowledge of the ecology and exploitation of this stock in order to improve its management. This programme evolved from the discussions between fishermen representatives, managers and scientists, around the development of a management plan for the Eastern Channel sole stock in 2015. Started in early 2016, this programme is mostly funded by ‘France Filière Pêche’, ie the French fishing industry funding agency. The three Producer Organisations working in the English Channel (FROM Nord, CME and OPBN) are partners, as well as two fishermen’s committees (CRPM Hauts de France and Normandy).

Further information is available at

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