Halibut, Atlantic (Caught at sea)
Capture method — Demersal otter trawl
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — All Areas
Stock detail — I-XIV
Atlantic halibut are fished via longline or as trawl bycatch. The longline fishery in most areas is no longer viable due to low catches, but Atlantic halibut continue to be caught as trawl bycatch. Halibut begin to appear in bycatch from the age of two years, significantly smaller in size than when mature, therefore removing their potential contribution towards stock recovery. Additionally, demersal trawl gear has significant potential for damaging the seabed and benthic habitats. Trawling is also associated with discarding of unwanted fish, i.e. undersized and/or non-quota and/or over-quota species.
Atlantic halibut, the largest of all flat fishes, is a thick-set, right-eyed (both eyes on the right-hand side of the body) flat fish in the family Pleuronectidae. It is distributed throughout the north Atlantic, particularly Norway, Faroes, Iceland and southern Greenland, but occurs as far south as Maine in north America and the Bay of Biscay in Europe. It can attain a length of 4.7m and more than 300kg, but it is considered slow growing in the wild. Spawning occurs during winter and early spring. Atlantic halibut become sexually mature at 10-14 years, at around 1.4m in length. The oldest recorded halibut has been 55 years of age yet models indicate that they could live for nearly 100 years! It has been a heavily targeted fishery for more than 100 years and with slow growth rates, high age at maturity and a population doubling time of around 14 years, is highly susceptible to overfishing. IUCN list Atlantic halibut as Endangered (1996) and the species appears on the US National Marine Fisheries Service list of species of concern. Additionally the Project Inshore Phase II Report (2013) noted that under the MSC Risk Based Framework, the species was ranked as the 6th most susceptible species, behind some sharks and rays.
It is important to note that halibut stocks of the Northeast (NE) Atlantic are seperate from those of the Northwest (NW) Atlantic. NE Atlantic halibut stocks are not assessed by ICES nor are they sufficiently researched at the local or national level to determine biological or fishery reference points. The only targted fisheries in the NE Atlantic occur in the waters around Greenland yet the species continues to be landed as bycatch in trawl, gill net and demersal long line fisheries. Stocks are also reportedly increasing in Norwegian waters, yet there is insufficient information available to assess the health of this fishery or to justify treating it independently from the rest of the NE Atlantic. ICES have previously recommended that there should be no directed fishery for Atlantic halibut in the NE Atlantic and there have been no further updates, advice or research to suggest otherwise.
There are no harvest control rules or long term management plans in place for the fishery nor a Minimum Landing Size (MLS) within the EU. In 2013 the EU Council further reduced the Total Allowable Catch (TAC) down to 112 t for each of the areas around Greenland - ICES Areas V, XIV and in NAFO Areas 0 & 1. In Iceland, there is a ban on all directed fisheries and all live halibut caught with a chance of post capture survival are to be released. In Norwegian coastal waters, north of 62 degrees, there are some directed long line fisheries that are reportedly tightly controlled. For UK fisheries, Project Inshore Phase II Report (2013) noted that there are no harvest control rules nor are there any tools available to implement harvest control rules for Atlantic halibut. In the West Atlantic, a Canadian Atlantic halibut fishery has been certified as a sustainable fishery by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). After extensive overfishing in the 1990s, the last decade has seen significant investment in research and monitoring and the implementation of strict management controls and enforcement. For more information about this certified fishery, visit the MSC website.
In these areas, Atlantic halibut is primarily landed by Scottish trawlers when targeting other demersal species, but also captured in demersal long line and net fisheries.
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)
Sole, Dover sole, Common sole