Halibut, Atlantic (Caught at sea)

Hippoglossus hippoglossus

Method of production — Caught at sea
Capture method — Longline
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

Updated: July 2020.

North East Atlantic Halibut is a data-limited species and its stock status is unknown. Atlantic Halibut stocks in this area are not assessed by ICES and they are not sufficiently researched at the local or national level. Atlantic halibut have a very low resilience to fishing pressure. IUCN categorises Atlantic halibut as Vulnerable in Europe (last assessed in 2013) and Endangered globally (last assessed in 1996). There are some specific management measures in place 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. In Norwegian coastal waters, north of 62 degrees, there are target long line fisheries that are thought to be well managed. 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

Atlantic Halibut is a data-limited species and its stock status is unknown. IUCN categorises Atlantic halibut as Vulnerable in Europe (last assessed in 2013) and Endangered globally (last assessed in 1996). Atlantic halibut have a very low resilience to fishing pressure and it is likely that they are being overfished in Norway.

Catches in Norway have been increasing from 4720 tonnes in 2016 to 8813 tonnes in 2018 (the second highest in the time series), over 8400 tonnes have been caught in each of the 3 years from 2016-2018. It is not known whether an increase in catch is due to an incline in the stock or an increase in fishing pressure.

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 0.8m, however, halibut do not mature until 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). Since October 2017, it is also mandatory to release all halibut above 2m in length back into the sea. However, this is due to the presence of contaminants and not due to conservation measures. 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: 0.25 info

Longlining is generally a selective fishing method, however, it can result in the catches of Endangered, Threatened and Protected (ETP) species. To protect Atlantic Halibut, In Norwegian coastal waters north of 62 degrees, there are target long line fisheries that are well managed.

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)
Megrim
Plaice
Sole, Dover sole, Common sole
Turbot (Farmed)

References

Froese, R. and D. Pauly. Editors. 2019. Hippoglossus hippoglossus, Atlantic halibut. Available at https://www.fishbase.de/Summary/SpeciesSummary.php?ID=1371&AT=atlantic+halibut [Accessed on 15.09.2020].

Havforsknings Instituttet. 2019. Theme: Atlantic halibut. Available at https://www.hi.no/hi/temasider/arter/atlantisk-kveite [Accessed on 15.09.2020].

ICES. 2019. Icelandic Waters ecoregion – Ecosystem overview. Available at http://ices.dk/sites/pub/Publication%20Reports/Advice/2019/2019/EcosystemOverview_IcelandicWaters_2019.pdf [Accessed on 15.09.2020].

Official Nominal Catches 2006-2018. Version 22-06-2020. ICES, Copenhagen. Available at https://www.ices.dk/data/dataset-collections/Pages/Fish-catch-and-stock-assessment.aspx [Accessed on 23.09.2020].

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.

Sobel, J. 1996. Hippoglossus hippoglossus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 1996: e.T10097A3162182. Available at https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.1996.RLTS.T10097A3162182.en. [Accessed on 15.09.2020].

Trzcinski, M. K. and Bowen, W. D. 2016. The recovery of Atlantic halibut: a large, long-lived, and exploited marine predator. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 73(4), 1104-1114.