Products

Halibut

Hippoglossus stenolepis

Market Name(s): Halibut, Pacific halibut

Contact Purchasing
Halibut
  • Primary Source: Alaska, British Columbia, Russia, Japan
  • Season: Alaska and British Columbia: Mar 15 - Nov 15; Limited supply from winter test fishery.
  • Primary Fishing Method: Longline, some trawl (Russia).

Size Range:

Max Size: 500 lbs

Avg. Size: 20-100 lbs

Product forms:

FRESH: H&G, fletches, steaks

FROZEN: H&G, fletches, steaks, breaded and battered portions.

Storage & Handling

Well-iced, fresh halibut will last up to two weeks. Well-glazed, frozen halibut can last up to a year stored at - 5 to -15 ° F.

Cooking Suggestions

Halibut is often said to have the most distinctive flavor of white fish. It is very popular because of its thick, succulent meat. It makes a superb fish and chips, and can be simply baked, grilled, broiled or pan-fried with excellent results. Halibut flesh is firmer than most white fish, so it holds together well in most preparations. Also, it is delicious marinated and holds up well in most banquet feeding operations.

Selling Points

  • The ITQ system means fresh halibut is now available 9 months of the year.
  • Thick and meaty, halibut holds up well to a variety of cooking methods and sauces.
  • Fresh halibut is quickly becoming a staple of good seafood restaurants around the country.

Defects

  • Halibut can have a dull appearance referred to as "chalky" flesh.
  • Ripped and ragged fins are signs fish came up dead on the line.
  • Russian halibut that is trawled and not bled can have a grayish color.
  • Yellow spotting on frozen fish is a sign of poor handling and potential rancidity.

The Pacific Advantage

  • Processing Facilities in Alaska, British Columbia and lower western 48 states
  • Purchasing stations at all major landing ports
  • Offered in numerous forms - Fresh H&G, Fletch, Steaks, Frozen IQF, IVP
  • One of the largest procurers of Halibut
  • Work directly with fleet
  • Pacific Seafood advanced product traceability system to assure food safety
  • Founding member of NFI Better Seafood Board for ethical industry practices

Summary

The ocean's largest flatfish (as well as one of the largest fish species in the sea), Pacific halibut are noted for their thick steaks and fillets, which boast a big flake, mild flavor and excellent versatility in the kitchen. Thanks to changes in the fishery's management, fresh halibut is now available eight months a year, while frozen product is available year round.

Alaska accounts for approximately 80% of the North American harvest of Pacific halibut. The annual quota now averages about 25,000 tons.

Both the British Columbia and Alaska halibut fishery now operate under an Individual Transferable Quota (ITQ) system, Under the ITQ system, fishermen "own" their quota and can fish it anytime from March 15th to November 15th.

The U.S. imports more than 8,000 tons of Pacific halibut in most years from both Russian and Japan. This halibut is smaller (averaging 10 to 20 pounds) and has higher oil content. Because most of this fish is frozen at sea, the quality can be excellent.

Although Pacific halibut can grow to more than eight feet long and 700 pounds (rightfully earning their Latin name, Hippoglossus, or "hippos of the sea"), most commercially caught fish run 20 to 100 pounds. In general, only female halibut grow to any significant size; males rarely tip the scales at more than 50 pounds. Large halibut (more than 80 to 100 pounds) are sometimes called "whales," while small ones (20 pounds or less) are sometimes known as "chicken halibut."

Most H&G halibut is sold in 20-lb. increments, as in 20/40s, 40/60s, etc. The term "fletch," often used with halibut, refers to a large fillet (like a side of salmon). One halibut will yield four fletches. With a slightly sweet flavor and a thread-like texture (similar to skate), halibut cheeks are an excellent by-product and are considered a delicacy by discerning seafood consumers. Alaska and B.C. halibut are caught only by longline, in which baited hooks are strung every five to 10 feet along 1/4-mile-long "skates" of gear. Ideally, they're gaffed aboard alive, then bled, cleaned and iced.

A related species, California halibut, Paralichthys californicus, resembles the Pacific halibut, but is generally smaller (60 pounds maximum) and is considered a left-eyed, rather than right-eyed, flounder. Atlantic halibut, a closely related species, is also quite large, weighing several hundred pounds. Although commercial production is less than 5,000 tons a year, Atlantic halibut are being farmed in Scotland and Norway in increasing numbers.

More than 50,000 tons a year of Greenland halibut, Reinhardtius hippglossoides, a smaller member of the halibut family, is caught in both the North Atlantic and North Pacific oceans. To avoid confusion with Pacific halibut, this softer-fleshed species must be marketed as Greenland turbot in the U.S., although it is not related to the true European turbot.