Wild Atlantic Halibut - Buyer beware

Wild Atlantic Halibut live mainly in the very Northern part of the Atlantic and are mostly landed at Lerwick, Shetland. Halibut are very slow growing and do not mature until 8-10 years old. That’s why the wild populations are so vulnerable to over-fishing. There is no quota as Atlantic Halibut is now an endangered species so any landed are sadly trawler by-catch. By-catch halibuts get caught from age 2 years upwards, well before maturity. Typically only 3-4 boxes at a time are landed and sold at the fish auction in Lerwick, & are seen only once or twice per week.  If caught alive they are supposed to be returned.


Larger amounts of the cheaper, but inferior quality and different species; Greenland Halibut (often called mock halibut or chicken halibut) are caught wild in Icelandic waters under quota which is 15,000 tonnes/yr. Compared to less than 1000 tonnes of true wild Atlantic halibut which were landed as by-catch.


Greenland halibut (Reinharditius hippoglossus) look very similar to true Atlantic Halibut

(Hippoglossus hippoglossus) in appearance but with slightly different eye orientation. Usually less than 4kg in weight and quite small/compact they are sold with heads off so it is very easy to mistake or pass off these lesser fish for true Atlantic Halibut.

Atlantic Halibut   Greenland Halibut

 Atlantic Halibut                                                                                    Greenland Halibut

Greenland halibut are priced at £12-14/kg, much cheaper than true Halibut. They have mostly been frozen then defrosted as the quotas are fished out by June or July. Stocks are released throughout the year to maintain price through steady supply.


New labeling legislation came into force in December 2014 is aimed at stamping out fraudulent practice in the seafood industry. Your goods should be labelled with Latin species and common name, where caught or farmed and method of catch.  Here’s what fish box labels should show. Insist on knowing the correct species name.  Here is an example of what your fish box labels should be reading!


Fish Labelling