Halibut, Atlantic (Caught at sea)

Hippoglossus hippoglossus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Gill or fixed net
Capture area — North East Atlantic (FAO 27)
Stock area — All Areas
Stock detail

1 to 14


Picture of Halibut, Atlantic (Caught at sea)

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

The Northeast Atlantic Halibut is a data-limited species. The IUCN list the species as ‘Endangered’ (but this was last assessed in 1996). It is likely that Atlantic halibut is overfished in European waters. There is no rebuilding plan or long-term management plan. There are some management measures in EU waters (such as limits of days at sea, size of catch, gear restrictions, real-time closures, Marine Conservation Zones and inshore habitat management) but management measures are considered to be insufficient and inconsistent. Apart from landings data, no data are routinely reported for stock. Gill nets generally cause low impacts to bycatch and habitat, however, can occasionally catch endangered species. Ghost fishing is reported occasionally. Management is generally better in inshore waters.

This rating does not include fisheries in the Northwest Atlantic where some well-managed Marine Stewardship Council certified fisheries are in place.

Biology

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.

Stock information

Criterion score: 1 info

Stock Area

All Areas

Stock information

Atlantic Halibut is a data-limited species and its stock status is unknown. The IUCN list the species as ‘Endangered’ (but this was last assessed in 1996). It is likely that Atlantic halibut is overfished in European waters.

Northeast Atlantic halibut stocks are not assessed by ICES nor, are they sufficiently researched at the local or national level.

Management

Criterion score: 0.75 info

Even though Halibut may be overfished and their stock status is unknown, there is no rebuilding plan or long-term management plan for the species. There are no quotas, but a there is a minimum landing size and some bans for fishing halibut in Iceland. In EU waters, there are effort restrictions (such as days at sea), size of catch, gear restrictions, real-time closures, MCZs and inshore habitat management. Vessels over 15m in length are required to use Vessel Monitoring Systems (VMS). However, measures to manage the species in this area are considered to be insufficient and inconsistent.

Apart from landings data, there are no data are routinely reported for stock.

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.

Capture Information

Criterion score: 0.5 info

Catches in gillnets are often not monitored. Therefore, the net can interact with a wide range of fish, skates and rays, invertebrates, birds and marine mammals. The main bycatch species are likely to include mixed crabs, lesser spotted dogfish, nursehounds, dragonet, green sea urchin, starry ray, smelt and ocean quahog. Gillnets generally cause low impacts to the habitat, although ghost fishing is reported occasionally.

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

Southall T. D, Cappell R, Hambrey J.B, Hervas A, Huntington T.C , Medley P.A.H, Nimmo F, Pfeiffer N & Tully O. 2013. Project Inshore Stage 2 Report. Prepared by Food Certification International Ltd. for Seafish and the Shellfish Association of Great Britain. Http://www.seafish.org/media/publications/2013.06.07_Project_Inshore_S2_v4.pdf Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors, 2011. Hippoglossus hippoglossus (Linnaeus, 1758) Atlantic halibut. FishBase. World Wide Web electronic publication. http://www.fishbase.org/summary/Hippoglossus-hippoglossus.html Marine Research Institute (MRI), 2012. State of Marine Stocks in Icelandic Waters 2011/2012, Prospects for the Quota Year 2012/2013. 2.7. Halibut Hippoglossus hippoglossus http://www.hafro.is/Astand/2012/eng/07-halibut-12.PDF MSC 2013. Canada Atlantic Halibut certification summary online. http://www.msc.org/track-a-fishery/fisheries-in-the-program/certified/north-west-atlantic/canada_atlantic_halibut/?searchterm=atlantic%20halibut