Aug 26
Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus) photo

Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus)

Species: Atlantic halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus)

Status: Endangered (EN)

Interesting fact: The Atlantic halibut is the largest flatfish in the world.

Like other species of flatfish, the Atlantic halibut is curiously adapted to life on the ocean floor. They have evolved to lie on one side of their body, flattened sideways. The Atlantic halibut lies on its left side and both eyes tend to migrate the right side of the head during development.

The Atlantic halibut is found in the cold waters of North Atlantic coasts. Larvae can be found drifting within the water column, and will migrate to the ocean floor when they reach about 4 centimetres. The Atlantic halibut has a relatively slow growth rate and can live up to 50 years. Young Atlantic halibuts feed on crustaceans, while older fish tend to hunt other fish, such as cod, haddock, herring and skate.

The slow growth rate and late onset of sexual maturity makes the Atlantic halibut extremely vulnerable to the effects of overfishing. Over the last two centuries the Atlantic halibut has suffered massive declines throughout its range due to overfishing. Today, population levels are still in decline. They are now too low to sustain target fisheries, but the Atlantic halibut is still caught as bycatch by bottom trawlers and longliners.

There is currently no management plan in place for this fish and it is thought that numbers of Atlantic halibut will continue to decline. The recovery and survival of this Endangered flatfish species depends on reducing bycatch in other highly exploited fisheries.

Find out more about this endangered flatfish on the Fisheries and Oceans Canada website.

See images and videos of the Atlantic halibut on ARKive.

Lauren Pascoe, ARKive Researcher