Pacific Halibut

Pacific Halibut
Common Name Pacific Halibut
Market Name common halibut, Alaskan halibut
Scientific name Hippoglossus stenolepis
Sushi Name ohyo

Sourcing Summary

Size

10-60 lbs.

About 2% of the halibut population that can be fished is found off Oregon and Washington, about 15% off British Columbia, and the remainder 80%+ off Alaska. When fresh product is not available, distributors often thaw H&G halibut, and then fillet it in a process known as "refreshing." Previously frozen halibut cooks faster than fresh halibut and has a reputation for being dry. Fresh halibut is available in-season from major distributors and frozen (or refreshed) halibut is available year-round. Halibut "cheeks" are a delicacy cut from the head area next to the gills, with a texture similar to crab. The size of the cheeks can range from a few ounces to over a pound.

Pacific halibut meat is sometimes found to be “chalky”—a condition associated with “a denaturation of muscle proteins” that appears more often in late summer and in fish caught farther south. The good news is it occurs in only about one percent of halibut. Chalkiness is easy to spot in fillets—the meat is white instead of translucent. While this is acceptable for applications like fish and chips, most buyers don’t want to pay as much for chalky fish.

Product Forms

Fresh/Frozen
Fresh
Product Forms
Cheeks
Fletches
H&G
Portions
Fresh/Frozen
Frozen
Product Forms
Cheeks
Fletches
H&G
Portions
Steaks

Fresh Seasonal Availability

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
nonoyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesyesno

Culinary Composition

Mild

Flavor

Firm

Texture

Cooking Methods

Health/Nutrition

Nutrition facts

Serving Size: 100g
Amount per serving
Calories 110
Total Fat 2.29g
Cholesterol 32mg
Sodium 54mg
Carbohydrates 0g
Protein 21g
Omega-3 0.5g

Biology

Pacific halibut is one of the largest flatfish – they can weigh up to about 500 pounds and grow to over 8 feet long. Males tend to be smaller than females. Males sexually mature when they are 8 years old; females are able to reproduce by the age of 12. They spawn during the winter in deep water along the continental slope, mainly in the Bering Sea, Aleutian Islands, Gulf of Alaska, and south to British Columbia. Depending on their size, females can have between 500,000 and 4 million eggs. Scientists believe females release their eggs in batches over several days during the spawning season. Eggs hatch after 12 to 15 days. The larvae slowly float closer to the surface where they remain for about 6 months until they reach their adult form and settle to the bottom in shallow water. Halibut live to be relatively old – the oldest halibut on record was 55 years old, but halibut over age 25 are rare.

Larval halibut feed on zooplankton (tiny floating organisms). Juveniles eat small crustaceans and other organisms that live on the seafloor. Adults aggressively prey on a variety of groundfish, sculpins, sand lance, herring, octopus, crabs, clams, and occasionally smaller halibut. Marine mammals and sharks sometimes eat halibut, but due to their large size, halibut are rarely preyed upon by other fish.

Species Habitat

Pacific halibut are found in coastal waters from Santa Barbara, California, to Nome, Alaska. They’re most common in the central Gulf of Alaska, particularly near Kodiak Island. They’re also found on the other side of the Pacific, from the Gulf of Anadyr in Russia to Hokkaido, Japan. Juveniles (1 inch and larger) live in shallow, near-shore waters off Alaska and British Columbia. Halibut move to deeper water as they age. Adults migrate seasonally from shallow summer feeding grounds to deeper winter spawning grounds.

Science & Management

Wild
Science

The International Pacific Halibut Commission has monitored halibut populations for over 80 years. Every year, Commission scientists estimate abundance and potential yield of the Pacific halibut stock using commercial fishery data and scientific surveys. Because these surveys contain such a long historical set of data, they are considered to be robust for statistically estimating abundance. 

In general, coastwide exploitable biomass (the amount of halibut available to the fishery) is estimated to have declined by about 50 percent since 2000 along the west coast of North America. The extent of the decline and reasons behind it vary by area. While biomass has declined in recent years, the resource remains in a healthy state in all areas. 

Beginning in 2013, the Alaska halibut fishery will be monitored by fisheries observers, either human or electronic, depending on the fishing vessel. Observers collect catch data onboard fishing vessels and at onshore processing plants. The data is used by managers and scientists in a variety of research activities, including stock assessments.Tagging studies, using passive integrated transponder (PIT) and pop-up archival (PAT) satellite tags, have enabled managers to better understand the coastwide migration patterns of halibut. As a result, a revised coastwide harvest management strategy has replaced regional closed-area regional harvest management strategies for halibut.

Management

The United States and Canada coordinate management through a bilateral commission known as the International Pacific Halibut Commission disclaimer; NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific and Pacific Fishery Management Councils are responsible for allocating allowable catch among users in the U.S. fisheries.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council is responsible for allocating the total allowable catch among users and user groups fishing off Alaska and developing regulations for the fishery, in line with Commission recommendations. NOAA Fisheries is responsible for implementing and enforcing these regulations. Examples of these programs include:

  • Individual fishing quota program, which allocates the total allowable catch among fishing vessels and individual fishermen. With their catch set, fishermen have the flexibility to harvest their quota anytime, creating a safer, more efficient, more valuable, and environmentally responsible fishery.
  • Community Development Quota (CDQ) Halibut Program, which allocates a percentage of the total allowable catch to eligible western Alaskan villages to allow them to participate and invest in fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and to support sustainable economic and community development in western Alaska.


The Pacific Fishery Management Council and NOAA Fisheries Service Northwest Regional Office establish regulations for halibut fisheries in U.S. waters off Washington, Oregon, and California (Area 2A). The Commission sets the total allowable catch for halibut in this regulatory area, and the Pacific Council allocates the catch among the following user groups: non-tribal commercial (incidental salmon troll fishery, directed longline halibut fishery, and incidental longline sablefish fishery), sport, and treaty Indian commercial and ceremonial-and-subsistence.

Harvest Methods

Conservation Criteria - Wild

Impact on Stock

Pacific halibut are long-lived and slow to mature, making them vulnerable to fishing pressure.

Pacific halibut, which are found from northern California to the Gulf of Alaska, have a relatively healthy abundance, although catches have been declining in recent years. The reliable abundance is mainly credited to responsible management.

Habitat impacts ( Wild)

Most halibut landed off North America is caught with bottom longlines. Although the gear does have contact with the seafloor, it doesn’t cause substantial damage. However, the gear’s precise impact on habitats is poorly understood. Off Alaska, longlining has been shown to negatively impact deepwater corals that are slow to recover from the damage.

Bycatch

Seabird bycatch is a concern in this fishery because the birds go after baited hooks as they come off the boat and numerous birds have been killed as a result, including some endangered albatrosses. Management procedures in this fishery are in place to mitigate seabird bycatch, including the mandated use of seabird avoidance devices on longline vessels.

Management effectiveness

In 1995, an individual quota system replaced the derby fishing system, allowing halibut fisherman a set quota they could harvest any time during the season, eliminating the incentive to fish competitively. Pacific halibut in North America is regulated by the bilateral International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC), which is regarded as having a very good track record. In addition to quotas, management measures include size limits and scientific research-based decision-making.

Conservation Criteria - Farmed

Name Country State / Province
7 Seas Fish Co., Ltd. Canada British Columbia
A-1 Alaska Halibut / Kachemak Bay Seafoods United States Alaska
Alaska Glacier Seafoods, Inc. United States Alaska
Alaskan Leader Seafoods, LLC. United States Washington
Alaskan Premium Seafoods, LLC. United States Michigan
Alaskans Own Seafood United States Alaska
Albion Farms & Fisheries Canada British Columbia
Alcatraz Bay Seafoods United States California
Allseas Fisheries Corp. Canada Ontario
American Fish & Seafood Company United States California
Anderson Seafoods Inc. United States California
Aqualine Seafoods Ltd. Canada British Columbia
B&C Food Distributors Canada British Columbia
Barlean's Fishery, Inc. United States Washington
Beaver Street Fisheries, Inc. United States Florida
Blundell Seafoods Canada British Columbia
Bornstein Seafoods Inc. United States Oregon
C2C Premium Seafood Canada British Columbia
Calkins & Burke Canada British Columbia
Canadian Fishing Company Canada British Columbia
Catanese Classic Seafood United States Ohio
Caudle's Catch Seafood Canada Ontario
Centennial Foodservice Canada Alberta
City Fish Canada Alberta
CleanFish United States California
Clipper Seafoods, Ltd. United States Washington
Clipper Ship, Inc. United States Washington
Coal Point Seafood Company United States Alaska
Coastal Villages Seafoods, LLC United States Alaska
Codfathers Seafood Market Canada British Columbia
Daily Seafood Inc. Canada Ontario
E&E Foods, LLC. United States Washington
E.C. Phillips & Son, Inc. United States Alaska
EcoFish, Inc. United States Massachusetts
Ed's Kasilof Seafoods United States Alaska
Empire Fish Company United States Wisconsin
En Gros Pierre Canada Quebec
Euclid Fish Company United States Ohio
Export Packers Company Limited Canada Ontario
Flurer Smokery Ltd. Canada British Columbia
Foods in Season United States Washington
Fortune Fish & Gourmet United States Illinois
French Creek Seafood Ltd. Canada British Columbia
Hallmark Fisheries, Inc. United States Oregon
Halperns' Purveyors of Steak and Seafood United States Georgia
Harbor Pride Seafood United States California
Icicle Seafoods, Inc. United States Washington
Ilwaco Landing LLC United States Washington
Imperial Seafood and Shellfish Inc. United States Ohio
IncredibleFish, Inc. United States Florida
J.J. McDonnell United States Maryland
John Nagle Co. United States Massachusetts
Kelly's Fresh Fish United States Washington
Kodiak Island WildSource United States Alaska
Lions Gate Fisheries, Ltd. Canada British Columbia
Lusamerica Foods, Inc. United States California
Marinelli Shellfish Co. United States Washington
Mariner Neptune Canada Manitoba
Marx Foods United States Washington
Maximum Seafood Canada Ontario
Mikuni Wild Harvest United States Washington
Northeast Seafood Products, Inc. United States Colorado
Northern Lakes Seafood & Meats United States Michigan
Northern Products Corporation United States Washington
Northport Fisheries Inc. United States Washington
Northwest Fresh Seafood Company United States Oregon
Nova Fisheries/SunWave Processors United States Washington
Ocean Beauty Seafoods LLC United States Washington
Orca Bay Seafoods, Inc. United States Washington
Organic Ocean Seafood Inc. Canada British Columbia
Pacific Harvest Seafood, Inc. United States Washington
Pacific Harvest Seafoods United States California
Pacific Seafood Group, Inc. United States Oregon
Pacific Star Seafoods, Inc. United States Alaska
Palomino Foods, Inc. United States Washington
Pickled Willy's United States Alaska
Pike Place Fish Market United States Washington
Precious Cargo Seafood Company United States Oregon
Premier Harvest United States Washington
Profish Ltd. United States District of Columbia
Pucci Foods United States California
Raw Seafoods United States Massachusetts
Red River Seafood Company LLC United States Florida
Sam Rust Seafood United States Virginia
Samuels & Son Seafood Company, Inc. United States Pennsylvania
Santa Monica Seafood, Inc. United States California
Sea to Table, USA United States New York
Seacore Seafood Inc. Canada Ontario
Seafood Producers Cooperative United States Washington
Seafood4life Products Inc. Canada British Columbia
Seattle Fish Company United States Colorado
Seattle Fish Company of New Mexico United States New Mexico
Sitka Salmon Shares United States Illinois
Slade Gorton & Co Inc. United States Massachusetts
Sleeping Giant Inc. United States Washington
Small Scales Seafood United States Alaska
SOGDA Limited, Inc. United States Washington
Stavis Seafoods United States Massachusetts
Tai Foong USA United States Washington
Taku Fisheries / Smokeries United States Alaska
The Auction Block Co. United States Alaska
The Fish Guys Inc. United States Minnesota
The Fishin' Company United States Pennsylvania
Tonka Seafoods, Inc. United States Alaska
Tradex Foods Inc. Canada British Columbia
Triad Fisheries Ltd United States Washington
Triar Seafood Company United States Florida
Trident Seafoods Corp. United States Washington
W!ld Ocean Fish Canada British Columbia
Wild Edibles, Inc. United States New York
Wild Fish Wives United States Washington
Wild Woman Fish Co. United States Colorado
WildCatch Seafood Products LLC United States Washington
Willowfield Enterprises Ltd. Canada British Columbia
Worldwide Seafoods (1997) Ltd. Canada British Columbia
ZF America United States Washington