Seafood: Halibut, Northern

Halibut, Northern

The Pacific halibut is one of the great successes in creating a sustainable catch while still keeping commercial fishermen in the game. This flatfish can reach weights up to 500 pounds and it’s mild, sweet and flaky meat can be stored for long periods of time, all of which combine to make it a favorite of commercial fishermen.

It wasn’t always a success though. Native Americans had fished it for hundreds of years. When the first halibut fishery opened in the late 1800s in Tacoma, Washington, it flourished until 1914 when everyone realized the catches were dropping due to overfishing. The US and Canada got together and enacted measures to regulate the fishery. Things cruised along until the 1980s as the popularity of the fish again surged, so further regulations were enacted, many due in part to the International Pacific Halibut Commission. This was before colored ribbons backing specific causes had become fashionable. One unverifiable tale tells how the commission (or more likely a rowdy group of fisherman) came up with a halibut scented ribbon that the fisherman all wore to show solidarity with the halibut. Things went from bad to worse when most of these unlucky pioneers spent the night outside, away from the house. So ended scented ribbons, thereby paving the way for colored ones. True story.

Found in waters from the Bering Sea all the way into California, the Pacific halibut can be found from just offshore all the way to the continental shelf, so sport fishermen go after it as well. If they’re lucky enough to land a big one, then everyone even remotely connected to the person who hooked it will enjoy halibut for years and years.

Since the fish is seriously big, halibut “roasts” are possible, as well as steaks (bone in) and filets. Overcooking is still the easiest way to screw it up, so leave the beer alone while grilling this fish and keep the game turned off too. (That’s why God invented DVRs, Bubba.) No matter the size, the fish is done when you can flake it with a fork.

High in protein and low in fat, easy to cook and easy to keep in the freezer until you’re ready to cook it, Pacific halibut is tough to beat.

Monterey Bay Aquarium Sustainability Rating

  • Best Choice (regardless of method used to catch it in the wild)

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Product descriptions are generously shared and created by CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture) in San Francisco. CUESA is dedicated to cultivating a sustainable food system through the operation of the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market and its educational programs. Visit CUESA at