Actinopterygii (Ray-finned fishes) > Pleuronectiformes (Flatfishes) > Pleuronectidae (Righteye flounders) > Pleuronectinae
Max length: 258 cm (male) 267 cm (female)
Max published weight: 363.0 kg
Max reported age: 42 years
Demersal; oceanodromous (Ref. 51243); marine; depth range 0 – 1200 m (Ref. 50550)
Temperate; 73°N – 42°N, 138°E – 123°W (Ref. 54557)
Halibut is a flatfish, genus Hippoglossus, from the family of the right-eye flounders (Pleuronectidae). Other flatfish are also called halibut. The name is derived from haly (holy) and butt (flat fish), for its popularity on Catholic holy days. Halibut live in both the North Pacific and the North Atlantic oceans and are highly-regarded food fish.
The halibut is the largest flat fish, averaging 11–13.5 kilograms (24–30 lb), but catch as large as 333 kilograms (730 lb) are reported; the largest recently recordedwas 236 kilograms (520 lb) and 2.5 metres (8.2 ft) long. They are gray-black on the top side with an off-white underbelly and have very small scales invisible to the naked eye embedded in their skin. At birth they have an eye on each side of the head, and swim like a salmon. After six months one eye migrates to the other side, making them look more like flounder. At the same time the stationary-eyed side darkens to match the top side, while the other side remains white. This color scheme disguises halibut from above (blending with the ocean floor) and from below (blending into the light from the sky) and is known as countershading.
Halibut feed on almost any animal they can fit into their mouths. Juvenile halibut feed on small crustaceans and other bottom dwelling organisms. Animals found in their stomachs include sand lance, octopus, crab, salmon,hermit crabs, lamprey, sculpin, cod, pollock, herring, flounder as well as other halibut. Halibut live at depths ranging from a few meters to hundreds of meters, and although they spend most of their time near the bottom,halibut may move up in the water column to feed. In most ecosystems the halibut is near the top of the marinefood chain. In the North Pacific their common predators are the sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus), the orca (Orcinus orca), and the salmon shark (Lamna ditropis).
Halibut are often broiled, deep-fried or grilled while fresh. Smoking is more difficult with halibut meat than it is with salmon, due to its ultra-low fat content. Eaten fresh, the meat has a clean taste and requires little seasoning. Halibut is noted for its dense and firm texture.
Halibut have historically been an important food source to Native Americans and Canadian First Nations and continue to be a key element to many coastal subsistence economies. Accommodating the competing interests of commercial, sport, and subsistence users is a challenge.
North Pacific: Hokkaido, Japan and the Sea of Okhotsk to the southern Chukchi Sea and Point Camalu, Baja California, Mexico.