The scope of this study is to investigate the extent to which area-based management may have influenced the fishing efficiency of the Danish and Dutch demersal fleets harvesting cod, plaice and sole in the North Sea. Special consideration is given to the 'plaice box', a restricted area where fishing is prohibited to towed-gear fleets of horsepower exceeding 300 hp. An index of fishing power is calculated as the log-ratio between the catch per unit effort (CPUE) of any vessel and some survey abundance index. Annual trends in fishing are calculated as the year-effect derived from a general linear model (GLM) analysis of the index of fishing power. The fishing efficiency of Danish gill-netters and, to some extent, Danish seiners, has overall increased inside the 'plaice box', whilst remaining relatively stable outside. However, the fishing efficiency of the other exemption fleets has apparently been subject to little change. Overall, it is not possible to determine the extent to which the 'plaice box' has contributed to the fishing efficiency dynamics of the exemption fleets. However, some of the results of this study bear out the conclusions from recent investigations.