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 — Norway
Stock detail

Norway


Picture of Halibut, Atlantic (Caught at sea)

Sustainability rating five info

Sustainability overview

The Northeast Atlantic Halibut is a data-limited species and the stock status is unknown. IUCN list the species as ‘Endangered’ (but this was last assessed in 1996). There are conflicting results on the species’ population trends. Landings have shown a ten-fold increase since the mid-1990s, which suggests that the stock has been rebuilding. However, caution must be applied to this result because there are very little other data for the stock and it is considered likely that Atlantic halibut is overfished in European waters.

There is better management for halibut in Norway, with a minimum landing size, fishing gear restrictions, and protection for the species during its spawning season. There is a substantial lack of information (particularly regarding population distribution, migration patterns, spawning behaviour, and other biological characteristics), which impedes effective management. Gill nets can interact with a wide range of fish, skates and rays, invertebrates, birds and marine mammals. Gillnets generally cause low impacts to the habitat, although ghost fishing is reported occasionally. Gill net fisheries are restricted to avoid the Halibut’s spawning season.

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

Norway

Stock information

Atlantic Halibut is a data-limited species. There has been no quantitative evaluation of the stock. The - IUCN list the species as ‘Endangered’ (but this was last assessed in 1996). There are conflicting results on the species’ population trends: landings in Norway have shown a ten-fold increase since the mid-1990s, which suggests that the stock has been rebuilding. However, caution must be applied to this result because there are very little data available for the species in this area and Atlantic halibut is likely overfished in European waters.

Management

Criterion score: 0.75 info

There is better management for Atlantic halibut in Norway, compared to in EU waters. The fishery is managed using a minimum size of 80 cm, however, halibut mature at around 1.4m in length. Therefore, it is unlikely that all of the halibut mature by the time that they can be caught and retained. There are also mesh-size regulations. It is illegal to fish for halibut using gill nets, trawl nets and Danish seines during the spawning season (20 December-31 March). There is a substantial lack of information (particularly regarding population distribution, migration patterns, spawning behaviour, and other biological characteristics), which impedes effective management.

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. Gillnets generally cause low impacts to the habitat, although ghost fishing is reported occasionally. Gill net fishing for halibut is managed in Norwegian waters to protect undersized halibut and protect Atlantic halibut during their spawning season. Discarding is illegal in Norwegian waters, however, there is an exception for Atlantic halibut, where all undersized Atlantic halibut have to be returned to the sea as safely and quickly as possible.

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

Fiskeridirektoratet. 2017. Leisure fishing with nets in the sea. Available at: https://www.fiskeridir.no/Fritidsfiske/Redskap/Garn.

Seafish. 2016. Atlantic Halibut in Norwegian Waters, Longline.

IMR. 2012. Atlantic halibut. Available at: http://www.imr.no/temasider/fisk/kveite/kveite/en.

Seitz, A.C., Michalsen, K., Nielsen, J.L., Evans, M.D. 2014. Evidence of fjord spawning by southern Norwegian Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus), ICES Journal of Marine Science, 71, 5, 1142-1147.

National Institute for Nutrition and Nutrition Seafood Research (NIFES). 2016. Kartlegging av fremmedstoffer i Atlantisk kveite (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) or Mapping of foreign matter in Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus). Available at: https://www.mattilsynet.no/mat_og_vann/uonskede_stofferimaten/miljogifter/rapport_miljogifter_i_fisk_2016__atlantisk_kveite.26145/binary/Rapport_Milj%C3%B8gifter%20i%20fisk%202016%20%E2%80%93%20atlantisk%20kveite.