Halibut, Greenland

Reinhardtius hippoglossoides

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — Iceland, Faroes grounds, West of Scotland, North of Azores, East of Greenland
Stock detail — V, VI, XII and XIV
Picture of Halibut, Greenland

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

Greenland halibut is a long lived species and vulnerable to over-fishing. Since the record low biomass observed in 2004 the stock has been stable and increasing slowly. A common management plan for the sustainable management of this stock in the long-term is being developed by the coastal states of Greenland and Iceland.


This is an Arctic species which feeds in mid-water. Unlike most other flatfish, its 'blind side' is dark grey rather than white. Greenland halibut spawns in summer (April to June). It is a relatively slow-growing and long-lived species. Males become sexually mature when 7-8 years old and 55-65 cm long and females when 9-11 years old and 65-80 cm. They move into deeper water as they grow and can reach lengths of 120cm. Maximum reported age 30 years.

Stock information

Stock Area

Iceland, Faroes grounds, West of Scotland, North of Azores, East of Greenland

Stock information

Greenland halibut in ICES Subareas V, VI, XII and XIV are assessed as a single stock unit. Spawning grounds are likely to be southwest of Iceland, although nursery areas for the stock are unknown. There appears to be little recruitment variability between years. The stock has been below BMSY since the early 1990s. It is presently at 68% of BMSY, compared to around 56% in 2012 and 2013 and 45% in 2011, when the stock was at an historical low. Since the record low biomass observed in 2004, the stock has been stable with signs of slow increase. Since Greenland halibut is a slow-growing species that first appears in catches at ages 4-6, recruitment failure will only be detected some 5-10 years after it occurs. Fishing mortality is currently appropriate and biomass above the MSY trigger reference. ICES advises that when the MSY approach is applied, catches in 2016 should be no more than 22 000 tonnes.


In 2012 the coastal states initiated work on a common management plan for Greenland halibut in these areas. The plan will include continuous monitoring of the fishery and the implementation of a harvest control rule. The plan has yet to be finalised. In May 2014 a delegation from both Iceland and Greenland met to agree, in the absence of a harvest control rule, a harvesting policy to maintain the exploitation rate of the stock at the rate which is consitent with the precautionary approach to fisheries management, and that generates maximum sustainable yield in the long term. The authorites agreed to issue an annual total allowable catch (TAC) based on recommendations by ICES, i.e. to follow scientific advice for the sustainable exploitation of the fishery. In the absence of a regional management plan, management practice has historically resulted in adoption of TACs by Greenland and Iceland that are in total set substantially higher than scientifically advised. The new management plan will resolve these issues.

Capture Information

The fishery for this species is distributed over a vast area, but with a substantial part taking place in a limited area west of Iceland. It is mainly conducted by factory trawlers operating with demersal trawls (96%), and to a lesser extent by gillnetters and longliners (4%).


Based on method of production, fish type, and consumer rating: only fish rated 2 and below are included as an alternative in the list below. Click on a name to show the sustainable options available.

Halibut, Atlantic (Farmed)
Halibut, Pacific
Sole, Dover sole, Common sole
Turbot (Farmed)


ICES Advice 2015, Book 2 http://www.ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2015/2015/ghl-grn.pdf