Halibut, Greenland

Reinhardtius hippoglossoides

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Longline
Capture area — North West Atlantic (FAO 21)
Stock area — West Greenland
Stock detail

Upernavik, Uummannaq, Disco Bay (Inshore fishery)


Picture of Halibut, Greenland

Sustainability rating three info

Sustainability overview

Halibut populations in this area appear healthy, however, there are some signs of a decline in population and a decline average halibut size in the past 10 to 15 years. There is a formal management plan in Greenland and Iceland since 2014 which includes a minimum landing size of 42 cm, licences, gear restrictions and a quota. The fishery is monitored using vessel monitoring systems and logbooks. Undersize fish and discards are also landed. Longline is a relatively selective gear and prohibited species catches are recorded.

Biology

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

Criterion score: 0.25 info

Stock Area

West Greenland

Stock information

The stock status is healthy, however, fishing pressure needs to be slightly reduced. However, another source shows a decline in population and average halibut size in the past 10 to 15 years.

Halibut in West Greenland is one stock. In Greenland it is divided into an offshore (Davis Strait, Baffin Bay, East Greenland) and inshore component (Upernavik, Uummannaq, Disco Bay). The Davis Strait seems to be the most important spawning area. As such the inshore part of the stock is dependent on the spawning stock in Davis Strait and immigration of recruits from the offshore nursery grounds to sustain it. The Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Organisation (NAFO) has responsibility for surveying the stock and reports for the whole area including Canadian waters. The Greenlandic Nature Institute is responsible for providing more detailed regional advice for both the offshore component and the inshore component. There is no analytical assessment of the stock and reference points are not determined.

Management

Criterion score: 0.5 info

There is a formal management plan in Greenland and Iceland since 2014. The fishery is managed using a Minimum Landing Size of 42 cm, licences, gear restrictions and logbooks. Undersize fish and discards are also landed.

Halibut in West Greenland is one stock and is shared historically on an equal basis between Greenland and Canada.

For management purposes in Greenland it is divided into an offshore (Davis Strait, Baffin Bay, East Greenland) and inshore component (Upernavik, Uummannaq, Disco Bay). An individual quota applied to each of the areas within the fishery.

Greenland halibut is the most important commercial fish stock for Upernavik residents.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.25 info

Longline is a relatively selective gear and prohibited species catches are recorded.

The vast majority (85%) of the 20,500 tons quota for inshore Halibut catch on the Greenlandic West coast is caught with longlines. A longline with baited fishing hooks attached at 40 cm intervals are lowered into the water. To the lowered end of the line is attached a plate of tin or zinc, called the glider, together with a piece of iron. The glider and the weight of the iron ensure the right slope of the line so it moves away from the hole in the ice. Plumbs or stones are attached to the line for each of the hooks (approximately 40 ) to ensure that the line is lying close to the seabed where the Halibut reside. The fish is caught when it eats the bait, and is hauled in together with the line. Winter is the time of the year when the fishermen are free from competition from Narwhales who have moved to ice-free waters for the winter. When the fjord is frozen the fishermen ride their dog-sledges out on the ice. They cut a hole in the ice and lower their baited long-lines into the ice-cold (0-2 degrees C) water where the fish reside upon the seabed. Hours later the long-line is ready to be hauled in and the catch of Halibut is loaded on the dog-sledge, sometimes up to 400 kg of fish per line. Due to the air temperatures of down to -40 degrees C the fish is instantly frozen when it leaves the water, which means that it is absolutely fresh when it arrives at the factory for processing a few hours later. In the summertime, when the water is free from ice, fishing is carried out from smaller dinghies or boats. The long-lines, that on the larger boats can hold up to 2,500 hooks distributed along 4,000 m of line, are baited with Capelin or other small fish. It takes approximately 4 hours for 3 persons to bait 2,500 hooks. The line stays in the water for approximately 12 hours before it is hauled, and up to 1.2 tons of Halibut is taken on board. The gall bladder is removed with a knife right after catch for optimal hygiene. Grenadiers are taken as bycatch in the offshore fishery. In the inshore fishery Uvaq, redfish and wolffish are taken as bycatch and brought to harbour. Catches for the 3 inshore areas was just under 20k t in 2010. There is a separate Total Allowable Catch or TAC for each of the 3 areas.

Alternatives

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.

Dab
Halibut, Atlantic (Farmed)
Halibut, Pacific
Megrim
Plaice
Sole, Dover sole, Common sole
Sole, Lemon
Turbot (Caught at sea)
Turbot (Farmed)

References

Gronlands Naturinstitut. 2012. Greenland Halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides) in Division 1A inshore. Available at: http://natur.gl/fileadmin/user_upload/FiSk/Raadgivning/NAFO_2011_ENG/2.%20sum%20Greenland%20Halibut%201A%202010%20final.pdf; Pew Trust. 2017. Agreement Holds Promise for Greenland Halibut Fishery in Disko Bay. Available at: http://www.pewtrusts.org/en/research-and-analysis/blogs/compass-points/2017/05/03/agreement-holds-promise-for-greenland-halibut-fishery-in-disko-bay [Accessed on 01/12/2017]