Halibut

Halibut

Pacific halibut, © Amadeo Bachar

At a glance

Eco-rating Mercury Omega-3s
+-Pacific halibut (Alaska and Canada)
Best
Moderate

MORE ABOUT PACIFIC HALIBUT

A flounderlike flatfish, Pacific halibut is an ocean-bottom dweller, moving from shore to more open seas as it matures. Pacific halibut grow from 4 to 7 feet (1.2 to 2.1 meters) long and can live up to 50 years. Halibut can weigh up to half a ton, but most range from 50 to 100 pounds.

Commercial Sources

Pacific halibut are found in the North Pacific Ocean. In East Asia, they occur from northern Japan to the Okhotsk Sea, and through the southern Chukchi Sea in the Arctic Ocean. In North America, they range from the Bering Sea south to Baja California, Mexico.

The main sources of Pacific halibut are the United States and Canada.

Capture Methods

Pacific halibut come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with longlines and troll lines. Additional types of fishing gear include bottom trawls and spears.

+-California halibut (hook/line, trawl)
OK
Elevated

MORE ABOUT CALIFORNIA HALIBUT

Halibut is a flounder like flatfish that is an ocean-bottom dweller. California halibut is a moderately long-lived fish found along the coast of California and Baja California, Mexico. The nursery habitat for this species is degraded, raising concerns about the ability of the population to sustain heavy fishing pressure. However, with no current assessment, the impact of environmental degradation or fishing pressure on abundance is unclear.

Capture Methods

California halibut comes from marine fisheries, not fish farms. It is caught both recreationally and commercially. It is caught primarily by bottom trawls, hook-and-line gear and gillnets. Hook-and-line operations have very low bycatch, bottom trawls have moderate levels of incidentally-caught finfish, many of which are landed, and gillnets have high levels of bycatch of birds and marine mammals, some of which are protected species.

+-Greenland turbot
OK
Elevated

More about Greenland Turbot

Greenland turbot is a flatfish that not actually a true turbot (Psetta maxima). It more closely resembles its relative, halibut. In U.S. markets, it is marketed as Greenland turbot so it is not confused with Pacific halibut. In Europe, it is marketed as Greenland halibut, so as to not confuse it with true turbot. In U.S. markets, Greenland turbot typically comes from U.S. or Canadian fisheries.

Although Greenland turbot populations are not considered depleted, it is rated Eco-Ok due to concerns regarding bycatch and potential habitat impacts from bottom trawling. These potential impacts are less significant on sandy or muddy seafloors where flatfish are caught than on rocky or reef habitats.

+-Atlantic halibut
Worst
Moderate

MORE ABOUT ATLANTIC HALIBUT

A flounderlike flatfish, the Atlantic halibut lives along the ocean bottom in varied depths of water. Because this fish grows slowly (reaching 7-9 feet, or 2.1-2.7 meters, and living as long as 50 years), it matures late and is vulnerable to overfishing. Atlantic halibut populations are depleted and commercial harvest of this fish is prohibited in the United States. Halibut can weigh up to half a ton, but most range from 50 to 100 pounds.

Commercial Sources

Atlantic halibut are found in the North Atlantic Ocean. In the eastern Atlantic, they occur from the Barents Sea in northern Europe to the Bay of Biscay off France, and around Iceland. In the western Atlantic, they range from Greenland and Labrador to Virginia.

The main sources of Atlantic halibut are Canada, Iceland and Norway. Atlantic halibut sold in the U.S. market are primarily from Canada, the Russian Federation, Iceland and Norway.

Capture Methods

Atlantic halibut come from marine fisheries, not fish farms. They are primarily caught with hooks-and-lines. Additional types of fishing gear include trawls and gillnets.

+-California halibut (set gillnet)
Worst
Elevated

MORE ABOUT CALIFORNIA HALIBUT

Halibut is a flounder like flatfish that is an ocean-bottom dweller. California halibut is a moderately long-lived fish found along the coast of California and Baja California, Mexico. The nursery habitat for this species is degraded, raising concerns about the ability of the population to sustain heavy fishing pressure. However, with no current assessment, the impact of environmental degradation or fishing pressure on abundance is unclear.

Capture Methods

California halibut comes from marine fisheries, not fish farms. It is caught both recreationally and commercially. It is caught primarily by bottom trawls, hook-and-line gear and gillnets. Hook-and-line operations have very low bycatch, bottom trawls have moderate levels of incidentally-caught finfish, many of which are landed, and gillnets have high levels of bycatch of birds and marine mammals, some of which are protected species.

Recommended servings per month

Contaminant Men Women Kids 6-12 Kids 0-5
Atlantic halibut Mercury 4+ 4+ 3 2
Greenland turbot Mercury 4+ 4+ 3 2
Pacific halibut (Alaska and Canada) Mercury 4+ 4+ 3 2
California halibut (hook/line, trawl) Mercury 3 3 2 1
California halibut (set gillnet) Mercury 3 3 2 1
Eco details: 
  • Atlantic halibut are so depleted from overfishing, the species is off-limits to commercial fishing in U.S. waters (but may be kept as bycatch).
  • Pacific halibut, on the other hand, come from a well-managed fishery, which has low rates of bycatch and causes little habitat damage.