American Plaice | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

American Plaice

Hippoglossoides platessoides

Also known as

Dab, plaice, sole

Distribution

Continental shelves of the Atlantic Ocean from the Arctic Circle to Rhode Island

Écosystèmes/habitats

Soft sandy or muddy bottoms

Feeding Habits

Ambush predator

Conservation Status

Threatened

Taxonomie

Order Pleuronectiformes (flatfishes); Family Pleuronectidae (right-eye flounders)

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When American plaice emerge from their eggs, they have a normal fish-shaped body. Like other flatfish, they develop their unique shape over time.  As they grow, their left eye starts to migrate over to their right side and their body begins to flatten. By the time they reach the juvenile stage and settle on the ocean floor, they will have assumed the classic flatfish shape. Their flattened body allows them to lie flush with the ocean floor and swim on their side, undulating just above the ground in search of their favourite foods. As adults, American plaice are known to be fairly adaptable to changes in prey availability; however they commonly feed on worms, molluscs, sea urchins, starfish, crustaceans and small fish. 

American plaice were historically harvested all across the Atlantic coast of Canada, particularly by bottom longline fisheries. However, the introduction of otter trawls to the fishery in the 1960s quickly led to overfishing and greatly reduced their numbers. There is a moratorium on American plaice in all of the fishing regions surrounding Newfoundland and Labrador, but they are still caught in low numbers in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence and as part of a multi-species groundfish fishery on the Scotian Shelf. Today, American plaice are typically harvested by trawls or seines, but small numbers are caught using longlines and gillnets.