Whiting (Merlangius merlangus)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



The whiting Merlangius merlangus is a cod-like fish. It has an elongated body with a small head and a pointed snout. It can grow up to 70 cm in length. It has a blue-green upper colouring and is silvery-white underneath. It has three dorsal fins and two anal fins. The pectoral fins are on the side and the pelvic fins are near the gills. The tail is truncate. Its upper jaw projects above the lower jaw. A small dark spot is found at the base of the pectoral fins and the lateral line is brown in colour.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Found off western Scotland, south-east England and the English Channel, and in the Irish Sea off the coasts of east England, Wales and Ireland.

Global distribution



The whiting is a benthopelagic species usually found as depths of 30-100 m. It can be found near mud and gravel bottoms, but also above sand and rock.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Blue-green dorsal colouring, silver-white underneath.
  • Three dorsal fins located close together and two anal fins.
  • First anal fin starts directly below the central rays of the second dorsal.
  • Black spot at the base of the pectoral fins.
  • Outer parts of the pelvic and dorsal fins form a white edge.
  • Brown lateral line.
  • Lower jaw slightly shorter than upper jaw.
  • Barbel either rudimentary or absent.

Additional information

It can be differentiated from similar species such as the haddock, Melanogrammus aeglefinus, by a small dark spot which is found at the base of the pectoral fins and by the lateral line being brown and not black. It is very similar to the blue whiting, Micromesistius poutassou, but can be distinguished by the dorsal fins being close together.


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  2. Gordon, J.D.M., 1977. The fish populations in inshore waters of the west coast of Scotland. The distribution, abundance and growth of the whiting (Merlangius merlangus L.). Journal of Fish Biology, 10, 587-596

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  1. Bristol Regional Environmental Records Centre, 2017. BRERC species records recorded over 15 years ago. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/h1ln5p accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-25.

  2. Environmental Records Information Centre North East, 2018. ERIC NE Combined dataset to 2017. Occurrence dataset: http://www.ericnortheast.org.ukl accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-09-38

  3. Isle of Wight Local Records Centre, 2017. IOW Natural History & Archaeological Society Marine Records. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/7axhcw accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  4. Kent & Medway Biological Records Centre, 2017. Fish: Records for Kent.. Occurrence dataset https://doi.org/10.15468/kd1utk accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-09-27.

  5. Kent Wildlife Trust, 2018. Kent Wildlife Trust Shoresearch Intertidal Survey 2004 onwards. Occurrence dataset: https://www.kentwildlifetrust.org.uk/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-01.

  6. Merseyside BioBank., 2018. Merseyside BioBank (unverified). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/iou2ld accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  7. Merseyside BioBank., 2018. Merseyside BioBank Active Naturalists (unverified). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/smzyqf accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  8. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from: https://www.nbnatlas.org.

  9. Norfolk Biodiversity Information Service, 2017. NBIS Records to December 2016. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/jca5lo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-01.

  10. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. www.iobis.org. Accessed: 2024-05-28

  11. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. SEWBReC Fish (South East Wales). Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/htsfiy accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.

  12. South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre, 2018. Dr Mary Gillham Archive Project. Occurance dataset: http://www.sewbrec.org.uk/ accessed via NBNAtlas.org on 2018-10-02

  13. Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service., 2017. Suffolk Biodiversity Information Service (SBIS) Dataset. Occurrence dataset: https://doi.org/10.15468/ab4vwo accessed via GBIF.org on 2018-10-02.


This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Merlangius merlangus Whiting. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 28-05-2024]. Available from: https://marlin.ac.uk/species/detail/96

Last Updated: 22/05/2008