Atlantic halibut

The Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) is a flatfish of the family Pleuronectidae. They are demersal fish living on or near sand, gravel or clay bottoms at depths of between 50 and 2,000 m (160 and 6,560 ft). The halibut is among the largest teleost (bony) fish in the world, and is an endangered species due to a slow rate of growth and previous overfishing.[1][3] Halibut are strong swimmers and are able to migrate long distances. Halibut size is not age-specific, but rather tends to follow a cycle related to halibut (and therefore food) abundance.

The native habitat of the Atlantic halibut is the temperate and arctic waters of the northern Atlantic, from Labrador and Greenland to Iceland, the Barents Sea and as far south as the Bay of Biscay and Virginia.[4] It is the largest flatfish in the world,[5] reaching lengths of up to 4.7 m (15 ft) and weights of 320 kg (710 lb). Its lifespan can reach 50 years.[4][6]

Atlantic halibut
Hippoglossus hippoglossus2
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Actinopterygii
Order: Pleuronectiformes
Family: Pleuronectidae
Genus: Hippoglossus
H. hippoglossus
Binomial name
Hippoglossus hippoglossus
Synonyms [2]
  • Pleuronectes hippoglossus Linnaeus, 1758
  • Hippoglossus vulgaris Fleming, 1828
  • Hippoglossus gigas Swainson, 1839
  • Hippoglossus americanus Gill, 1864
  • Hippoglossus linnei Malm, 1877
  • Hippoglossus maximus Gottsche, 1965


The Atlantic halibut is a right-eyed flounder. It is flattened sideways and habitually lies on the left side of its body with both eyes migrating to the right side of its head during development. Its upper surface is a uniformly dark chocolate, olive or slate colour, and can be almost black; the underside is pale. The end of the caudal fin is concave.[6] Young fish are paler with more mottled colouration.[7]


The Atlantic halibut has a relatively slow growth rate and late onset of sexual maturity, with males attaining maturity at seven to eight years old, females at 10 to 11 years, and individuals are thought to live up to 50 years. Little is known about their breeding except their spawning is seasonal, although its timing varies somewhat with location. In the eastern Atlantic, spawning occurs chiefly in March, April and May, although may span from January to June. Off the American coast, however, the spawning season appears to continue through the summer as late as September. After spawning, both sexes migrate northwards in search of food. Young Atlantic halibut individuals feed on crustaceans such as crabs and prawns. These halibut lie motionless and invisible on the sea bed, capturing any fish that pass within reach, although they may also hunt for fish in open water.[4][7]


This marine fish usually lives on the ocean floor at depths between 50 and 2,000 m (160 and 6,560 ft), but it occasionally comes closer to the surface. The larvae are pelagic, drifting relatively helplessly, but at around 4 cm, they migrate to the bottom. Young between the ages of two and four years live close to the shore, moving into deeper waters as they grow older.[4][7]

Geographic distribution

Found in both the eastern and western portions of the North Atlantic. In the western Atlantic, found from southwestern Greenland and Labrador, Canada to Virginia in the USA. They are found in the eastern Atlantic around Iceland, the United Kingdom, and northern Europe to Russia. A map of the Atlantic Halibut's geographic distribution can be found on the Official Website of Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.[8]

Role in ecosystem

The Atlantic halibut occupies a relatively high trophic level in the food chain.


The diet of the Atlantic halibut consists mainly of other fish, e.g. cod, haddock, herring, pogge, sand eels and capelin, but it will also eat cephalopods, large crustaceans and other benthos organisms.[4][6]


Atlantic halibut are eaten by seals, and are a staple food of the Greenland shark.[6]

Commercial fishing of wild Atlantic halibut

The wild Atlantic halibut was formerly a very important food fish, but due to its slow rate of population growth, it is unable to recover quickly from overfishing, and the fishery has largely collapsed. Consequently, wild fish labelled as "halibut" are usually one of the other large flatfishes, including Pacific halibut, Hippoglossus stenolepis.


Due to its popularity as a food fish, Atlantic halibut has attracted investment in fish farming. As of 2006, five countries - Canada, Norway, the UK, Iceland and Chile - were engaged in some form of Atlantic halibut aquaculture production.[9]

Conservation status

In 1996, the IUCN rated it as Endangered and placed it on its Red List.[1]

The Atlantic halibut is a US National Marine Fisheries Service Species of Concern, one of those species about which the U.S. Government's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has some concerns regarding status and threats, but for which insufficient information is available to indicate a need to list the species under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).[10] The American Fisheries Society has classified the species as "Vulnerable". In 2010, Greenpeace International added the Atlantic halibut to its seafood red list of "fish that are commonly sold in supermarkets around the world, and which have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries."[11]


This article incorporates text from the ARKive fact-file "Atlantic halibut" under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License and the GFDL.

  1. ^ a b c Sobel, J. (1996). "Hippoglossus hippoglossus". The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 1996: e.T10097A3162182. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.1996.RLTS.T10097A3162182.en. Downloaded on 26 March 2018.
  2. ^ Nicolas Bailly (2013). Bailly N, ed. "Hippoglossus hippoglossus (Linnaeus, 1758)". FishBase. World Register of Marine Species. Retrieved July 8, 2013.
  3. ^ "Top 10 Most Endangered Fish Species". How Stuff Works. Retrieved 11 March 2015.
  4. ^ a b c d e Ranier Froese; Daniel Pauly, eds. (5 June 2009). "Hippoglossus hippoglossus". Fishbase. Archived from the original on 20 June 2009. Retrieved 2009-06-22.
  5. ^ Chapleau, Francois & Amaoka, Kunio (1998). Paxton, J.R. & Eschmeyer, W.N., eds. Encyclopedia of Fishes. San Diego: Academic Press. xxx. ISBN 0-12-547665-5.
  6. ^ a b c d Bigelow, Henry B.; Schroeder, William C. (1953). "Atlantic halibut". Fishery Bulletin of the Fish and Wildlife Service. 53 (74): 249. Retrieved 2009-06-22.
  7. ^ a b c Atlantic halibut Gulf of Maine Research Institute: Fishery Bulletin (February, 2006)
  8. ^ Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs (2014-06-24). "Atlantic Halibut -". Energy and Environmental Affairs. Retrieved 2016-10-22.
  9. ^ "Atlantic Halibut". Fisheries and Oceans Canada. 2006-05-31. Archived from the original on 2010-12-27. Retrieved 2009-06-22.
  10. ^ Species of Concern NOAA
  11. ^ Greenpeace International Seafood Red list Archived April 10, 2010, at the Wayback Machine

External links

Atlantic halibut media from ARKive Edit this at Wikidata


The Alligatorfish (Aspidophoroides monopterygius, also known commonly as the Aleutian alligatorfish and the Atlantic alligatorfish) is a fish in the family Agonidae (poachers). It was described by Marcus Elieser Bloch in 1786. It is a marine, temperate water-dwelling fish which is known from the northwestern Atlantic Ocean, including western Greenland; Labrador, Canada; and Cape Cod, Massachusetts, USA. It dwells at a depth range of 0–695 metres, most often around 60–150 m, and inhabits sand and mud bottoms mostly on the lower continental shelf all year. It prefers a temperature range of -1.07 to 2.52 °C. Males can reach a maximum total length of 22 centimetres, but more commonly reach a TL of 14.2 cm.The Alligatorfish is preyed on by the Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) and the Pacific halibut (Hippoglossus stenolepis). Its own diet consists primarily of benthic crustaceans and bottom fauna.

American sole

The American soles are a family (Achiridae) of flatfish occurring in both freshwater and marine environments of the Americas. The family includes about 35 species in seven genera. These are closely related to the soles (Soleidae), and have been classified as a subfamily of it, but achirids have a number of distinct characteristics.

Eyes are on the right side, and the eyed-side lower lip has a distinctive fleshy rim. The dorsal and anal fins are usually separate from the caudal fin. The pectoral fins are small or nonexistent. They are fairly small; only Achirus achirus is known to surpass 30 cm (1 ft) in length.


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David I. Robinson

David Ingersoll Robinson (October 6, 1844 – November 13, 1921) was an American politician who served as Mayor of Gloucester, Massachusetts and Treasurer of Essex County, Massachusetts was a member of the Gloucester Common Council and the Massachusetts Governor's Council.


A flatfish is a member of the order Pleuronectiformes of ray-finned demersal fishes, also called the Heterosomata, sometimes classified as a suborder of Perciformes. In many species, both eyes lie on one side of the head, one or the other migrating through or around the head during development. Some species face their left sides upward, some face their right sides upward, and others face either side upward.

Many important food fish are in this order, including the flounders, soles, turbot, plaice, and halibut. Some flatfish can camouflage themselves on the ocean floor.


Flounders are a group of flatfish species. They are demersal fish, found at the bottom of oceans around the world; some species will also enter estuaries.

Greenlandic cuisine

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Halibut is a common name principally applied to the two flatfish in the genus Hippoglossus from the family of right-eye flounders. Less commonly, and in some regions only, other species of flatfish are also referred to as being halibuts. The word is derived from haly (holy) and butte (flat fish), for its popularity on Catholic holy days. Halibut are demersal fish and are highly regarded as a food fish.


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They are found in temperate and tropical waters of the Atlantic, Indian and Pacific Oceans.

Several species are important commercial and game fishes, notably the California halibut, Paralichthys californicus and the Pacific sanddab, Citharichthys sordidus.


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They include many important commercially fished species, including not only the various fish called flounders, but also the European plaice, the halibuts, the lemon sole, the common dab, the Pacific Dover sole, and the flukes.

The name of the family is derived from the Greek πλευρά (pleura), meaning "rib" or "side", and νηκτόν (nekton), meaning "swimming".

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Sole is a fish belonging to several families. Generally speaking, they are members of the family Soleidae, but, outside Europe, the name sole is also applied to various other similar flatfish, especially other members of the sole suborder Soleoidei as well as members of the flounder family. In European cookery, there are several species which may be considered true soles, but the common or Dover sole Solea solea, often simply called the sole, is the most esteemed and most widely available.

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The southern (or armless) flounders are a small family, Achiropsettidae, of flounders found in Antarctic and sub-Antarctic waters. There are four genera, each with one species.

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They are found in tropical and subtropical oceans, mainly in shallow waters and estuaries, though a few species found in deep sea floors, and a few in rivers.

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