P.A. Gainey

There are approximately 325 species of marine and estuarine fish to be found around the British coastline. Gainey, in Spalding, A. (Ed.) 1997, has reviewed the marine and estuarine fish that occur around the Cornish coastline and the Isles of Scilly. In excess of 200 species have been recorded for Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly. The geographical position of Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly, projecting south-west out into the north-eastern Atlantic Ocean, together with its extremely long coastline and numerous estuaries, containing a wide diversity of habitats, has ensured that the region has a large number of fish species. Its southern position, together with warming by the North Atlantic Drift, and possibly the Lusitanian Current (Slope and Shelf Edge currents), results in relatively warm waters which can support many more southerly, Lusitanian/Mediterranean, species. The Luisitanian Current may also be responsible for carrying the larval forms of many fish and marine invertebrates to these waters. Conversely Cornwall also represents the most southern extreme reached by various northern/boreal species. The Cornish coastline is also subject to visitations by a great variety of vagrant fish species. Besides the Lusitanian and Boreal vagrants there are also those deeper-water species from the Continental Shelf and slope areas and pelagic/oceanic species from the vastness of the north-eastern Atlantic Ocean. The vagrant species are dealt with in Section 4 of this account. The status of the various species in this account is based partly on Potts & Swaby (1991), on the author’s experience of the marine environment in the region and on the recent (2007) UK List of Priority Species. Useful reference works include The Plymouth Marine Fauna (M.B.A., 1957), The fishes of the British Isles and north-west Europe (Wheeler, 1969), The Key to the Fishes of Northern Europe (Wheeler, 1978), the Collins Pocket Guide to the Fish of Britain and Europe (Miller & Loates, 1997) and online Fishbase (Froese & Pauly, 2008 and 2009). The legal status of fish occurring in the UK was obtained from Guidelines for Baseline Ecological Assessment published by the Institute of Environmental Assessment (1995). The nomenclature is largely based on that published in Howson & Picton (1997), with the addition of more recent changes as indicated in the fish section of the European Register of Marine Species (van der Land et al., 2001). Thanks are due to S. Davis of the Cornwall Sea Fisheries Committee and R. Hillman of the Environment Agency. The author is particularly grateful to D. Herdson, formerly of the National Marine Aquarium, Plymouth, for his very useful comments on the various species and for the provision of records for the region.


Alosa alosa Allis Shad

Alosa fallax Twaite Shad

Ammodytes marinus Raitt’s or Lesser Sand-eel

Arnoglossus thori Thor’s Scaldfish

Atherina boyeri Big-scale Sand Smelt

Blennius ocellaris Butterfly Blenny

Buenia jeffreysii Jeffreys’s Goby

Cepola macrophthalma Red Band-fish

Chirolophis ascanii Yarrell’s Blenny

Ciliata septentrionalis Northern Rockling

Coryphoblennius galerita Montagu’s Blenny

Gobius cobitis Giant Goby

Gobius couchi Couch’s Goby

Gobius gasteveni Steven’s Goby

Hippocampus guttulatus Spiny, Long-snouted or Maned Seahorse

Hippocampus hippocampus Short-snouted Seahorse

Lepadogaster candollii Connemara Clingfish

Liparis liparis Sea-snail

Pagrus pagrus Couch’s Seabream

Parablennius ruber Red or Portuguese Tompot Blenny

Pegusa lascaris Sand Sole

Petromyzon marinus Sea Lamprey

Sparus aurata Gilthead Bream

Squatina squatina Angel Shark

Squalus acanthias Spiny Dogfish or Spurdog

Tripterygion delaisi Black-faced Blenny or Delais’ Triplefin

Zeugopterus regius Eckström’s Topknot


Fish categorised as Species of Conservation Concern (SoCC).

Acipenser sturio Common Sturgeon

Cetorhinus maximus Basking Shark

Dalatius licha Kitefin Shark or Darkie Charlie

Dipturus batis Common Skate

Galeorhinus galeus Tope Shark

Hippoglossus hippoglossus Atlantic Halibut

Isurus oxyrinchus Shortfin Mako

Lamna nasus Porbeagle Shark

Leucoraja circularis Sandy Ray

Micromesistius poutassou Blue Whiting

Prionace glauca Blue Shark

Raja undulata Undulate Ray

Rostroraja alba White or Bottle-nosed Skate

Salmo salar Atlantic Salmon

Salmo trutta Brown/Sea Trout

Thunnus thynnus Atlantic Blue-finTuna

3. Commercial Species on the 2007 UK List of Priority Species - Group Species Action Plans

These are common polices, actions and targets for similar species e.g. commercial fish. Very few, if any, of the marine fish species exploited commercially by UK fishermen are in imminent danger of biological extinction as they are found across wide geographical areas. Within these wide distributions, however, there are local stocks of fish subject to excessive exploitation and risk of collapse, even though the species itself is not in danger. Such a collapse would represent a reduction in the natural range of the species and effective action, to minimize this risk, is required under the UK BAP. For these reasons the Action Plan is aimed at particular stocks rather than the species as a whole. The stocks of immediate relevance are those for which the International Council for the Exploitation of the Seas (ICES) scientists’ assessment is that the species is below the Safe Biological Limit (SBL).

The fish stocks involved in the SBL assessment are those mentioned in the most recent (2007) UK List of Priority Species:

Clupea harengus Linnaeus Herring

Gadus morhua Linnaeus Cod

Lophius piscatorius Linnaeus Sea Monkfish or Angler

Merlangius merlangus (Linnaeus) Whiting

Merluccius merluccius (Linnaeus) European Hake

Molva molva (Linnaeus) Ling

Pleuronectes platessa Linnaeus Plaice

Scomber scombrus Linnaeus Mackerel

Solea solea (Linnaeus) Sole/Dover Sole

Trachurus trachurus (Linnaeus) Horse Mackerel/Scad

All of these species are present, often abundantly, in Cornish waters but may at any given time, move to, or fall below, the Safe Biological Limit (SBL). Up-to-date information on which of the various commercial stocks are at, near or below their SBL in the Western Channel and the Celtic Sea may be obtained from the ‘Fisheries Information’ section of the CEFAS website (

4. Vagrant and Migrant Fish (Non SoCC Species)

4.1 Lusitanian (southern) species

Acantholabrus palloni Scale-rayed Wrasse

Argyrosomus regius Meagre

Auxis rochei Bullet Tuna

Auxis thazard Frigate Tuna

Belone svetovidovi Short-beaked Garfish

Boops boops Bogue

Brama brama Ray’s Bream

Caranx crysos Blue Runner

Cheilopogon heterurus Atlantic Flying Fish

Chelidonichthys lastoviza Streaked Gurnard

Chelidonichthys obscura Long-fin Gurnard

Coris julis Rainbow Wrasse

Dactylopterus volitans Flying Gurnard

Dasyatis pastinaca Common Stingray

Engraulis encrasicolus Anchovy

Lepidopus caudatus Silver Scabbardfish

Lophius budegassa Black-bellied Angler

Mugil cephalus Flat-headed Grey Mullet

Muraena helena Moray Eel

Myliobatis aquila Eagle Ray

Oblada melanura Saddled Seabream

Pagellus acarne Saddled Seabream

Pagellus erythrinus Pandora

Polyprion americanus Wreckfish or Stone Bass

Sarpa salpa Saupe

Scopaena porcus Small-scaled Scorpion-fish

Scorpaena scrofa Red Scorpion-fish

Seriola dumerili Greater Amberjack

Seriola rivoliana Almaco Jack

Serranus cabrilla Comber

Sphyraena viridensis Yellowmouth Barracuda

Torpedo marmorata Marbled Electric Ray

Torpedo nobiliana Electric Ray

Trichiurus lepturus Hairtail

Zenopsis conchifer Sailfin Dory

4.2 Continental Shelf (deep water) species

Argentina silus Greater Argentine

Arnoglossus imperialis Imperial Scaldfish

Capros aper Boar-fish or Zulu

Centrolophus niger Blackfish

Coryphaenoides rupestris Grenadier or Roundhead Rat-tail

Etmopterus spinax Velvet Belly

Glyptocephalus cynoglossus Witch

Heptranchus perlo Sharpnose Seven-gill Shark

Hexanchus griseus Bluntnose Six-gill Shark

Leucoraja fullonica Shagreen Ray

Maurolicus muelleri Pearlsides or Sheppey Argentine

Phycis blennoides Greater Forkbeard

Schedophilus medusophagus Cornish Blackfish

Trigla lyra Piper

4.3 Boreal (northern) species

Anarhichas lupus Wolf-fish

Brosme brosme Torsk

Cyclopterus lumpus Lumpsucker

Sebastes viviparus Norway Haddock or Lesser Redfish

Somniosus microcephalus Greenland Shark

4.4 Oceanic/pelagic species

Alopias superciliosus Big-eye Thresher Shark

Alopias vulpinus Thresher Shark

Balistes capriscus Grey Trigger-fish

Hyperoglyphe perciformis Barrelfish

Katsuwonus pelamis Skipjack Tuna or Oceanic Bonito

Lagocephalus lagocephalus Oceanic Puffer-fish

Lampris guttatus Opah or Moon-fish

Makaira nigricans Blue Marlin

Mobula mobular Horned or Devil Ray

Mola mola Ocean Sun-fish

Naucrates ductor Pilot Fish

Pterycombus brama Silver Pomfret

Remora remora Remora

Sarda sarda Bonito

Scomber colias Atlantic Chub Mackerel or Spanish Mackerel

Sphoeroides pachygaster Smooth Pufferfish or Blunthead Puffer

Thunnus alalunga Albacore or Longfin Tunny

Thunnus obesus Big-eye Tuna

Xiphias gladius Swordfish