The dab is one of Britain’s commonest flatfish, occurring all round Britain and Ireland and is particularly abundant in the North Sea. The dab is a small and very common flatfish, similar in general shape to the plaice and flounder. Both eyes are on the right side of the body. The basic colour is brown with darker blotches and small speckles. Some fish may have a few orange spots but these are not as well developed as they are in the plaice. The most characteristic feature is the lateral line, which is strongly arched. Most dab reach only 25 cm long but individuals up to 42 cm have been found.
Dab live in sandy areas from the shore down to 150 m but are most common between 20-40 m. The young live close inshore, usually in less than 1 m of water and the adults migrate inshore from deeper water in the warmer summer months. Dab feed mostly on marine worms and small crustaceans, prawns and molluscs. Spawning depends on water temperature and therefore on latitude but is in spring and early summer around Britain. Dab will eat almost any bottom-living animal they catch.
Dab is abundant throughout the North Sea and has mostly been ignored as a commercial fish, only retained when caught as by-catch of other targeted species. However, declining numbers of other fish such as cod and haddock has seen dab become an increasingly important commercial species. A number of high-profile celebrity chefs including Jamie Oliver have attempted to get more people eating dab to lift the pressure on other species of heavily exploited commercial fish including the ‘big five’; cod, haddock, prawns, salmon and tuna.