Range & Habitat: Atlantic Ocean
Identification & Biology: Of the flounder family and the largest of all flatfish, halibut are gray with some white mottling. Most weigh between 50 and 100 lbs., but Atlantic halibut can exceed half a ton. Young chicken halibut are much smaller (2 to 10 lbs.)
Harvest Info: Atlantic halibut are mostly harvested in Canada by longline, although a small portion of the fish that comes to market is bycatch from other fisheries along the Atlantic coast and a small directed fishery in Maine.
Fishermen target halibut by working known areas and setting down hooks baited with food that halibut prefer (like chunks of octopus and cod). Since fish come up one at a time while still alive they can be stunned and quickly processed (gutted and bled) before being moved into slush ice. This results in a high quality, consistent final product. Most trips for halibut are short (2 – 4 days) and limited by the size of the boat.
Although there is some incidental by catch, it’s minimal. Since fish come up on hooks, fishermen can release unwanted species and return them to the ocean unharmed.
Because Atlantic halibut live in waters shared by the US and Canada there are questions about the current management systems in place. Canadian fishermen are allowed limited access to a “rebuilt” population of Atlantic halibut while US fishermen are not allowed to target the same species, even in neighboring waters.
Market Description: Atlantic halibut has extremely lean, firm, tight-grained white meat.
Habitat: Northern Atlantic
Flavor Profile: large flake, tender texture, sweet mild taste
Fishing Technique: hook & line, long line
Suitable Sub: Pacific halibut
Buying tips: fish should be sweet-smelling, with glistening pure white flesh that’s free of browning, gaping, and signs of dryness.
Sold as: fillets, steaks or fresh whole (headed and gutted). Halibut cheeks, are also available in limited quantities.
Recommended Preparation: halibut is great poached, grilled, roasted, steamed and is great in soups and stews.