Greenland Turbot

Turbot illustration

Reinhardtius hippoglossoides

ALSO KNOWN AS:

    Greenland Halibut, Turbot, Newfoundland Turbot, Blue Halibut

SOURCE:

    U.S. wild-caught from Alaska
 

STATUS

  • POPULATION
  • FISHING RATE
  • HABITAT IMPACTS
  • BYCATCH
 

Click the icons to learn more about each criteria

 
 

OVERVIEW

Scientist holding a Greenland Turbot

A scientist holding up a Greenland turbot during a research cruise.

LAUNCH GALLERY

Greenland turbot is not a true turbot (Psetta maxima) and actually more closely resembles its relative, halibut. It is sold as turbot in the United States so as not to confuse it with Pacific halibut. In fact, the only species that can be legally sold as “halibut” disclaimer in the United States are Atlantic and Pacific halibut. Greenland turbot is sold as Greenland halibut in Europe so as not to confuse it with true turbot. In U.S. markets, Greenland turbot typically comes from U.S. or Canadian fisheries.

Similar in taste and texture to its delectable cousin, halibut, Greenland turbot is a valuable fish. Harvests were high in the 1970s but have generally declined since, mainly due to catch restrictions placed on the fishery and declining populations. Scientists found that the occurrence of juvenile Greenland turbot in the Eastern Bering Sea shelf region has declined since the late 1970s. Scientists closely monitor the Greenland turbot stock and fishery and, as a precaution, managers have set low harvest limits for Greenland turbot fishery. Since 2007 the abundance of juveniles on the shelf region has increased steadily - possibly because of colder conditions observed from 2006–2011.

Looking Ahead

Scientists continue to study processes affecting abundance of juvenile Greenland turbot. The high levels in the 1970s could have been due to environmental factors. Also, several major predators (Pacific cod and halibut) were at low levels during the late 1970s but increased to peak levels during the mid 1980s, possibly putting additional pressure on juvenile Greenland turbot.

 
 
 

LOCATION & HABITAT

Greenland turbot are found throughout the eastern Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands region in the North Pacific Ocean. They are also found in the Northwest Atlantic in cold Arctic waters and deep bays around Newfoundland, Labrador, Baffin Island, and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Greenland turbot live near the ocean floor. They prefer cold temperatures and soft, muddy bottoms.

 
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BIOLOGY

Greenland turbot grow relatively fast, up to 25 pounds. They spawn in winter in deep water near the ocean floor. Females are able to reproduce when they reach about 2 feet in length and 9 years old. When they spawn, females release around 60,000 to 80,000 eggs, and males fertilize them as they swim past. Once hatched, larvae drift hundreds of miles out of the deep ocean into shallower waters over the continental shelf to feed and grow. After a few years, they move back out to deeper waters over the continental slope. Greenland turbot can live up to 21 years. Scientists age many fish by counting marks on their otoliths (ear bones), like counting growth rings on trees. Try your hand at ageing Greenland turbot here.

Greenland turbot feed on crustaceans, squid, and various fish. They’re an important part of the diet of narwhals. Pacific cod and halibut also eat Greenland turbot.

 
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PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION

A cousin of Pacific halibut, Greenland turbot are a right-eyed flatfish - as they develop, their left eye migrates across the top of the skull toward the other eye on the right side. Turbot are yellowish or grayish-brown on top and paler on their underside. They have a large mouth and large teeth.

 
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OVERVIEW

Scientists at NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center assess the abundance of Greenland turbot in the Bering Sea every year through bottom trawl surveys and in the Aleutian Islands every two years through bottom trawl and longline surveys.

 
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POPULATION STATUS

Scientists estimate that both the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska populations of Greenland turbot are well above their target population levels. The Bering Sea/Aleutians Islands stock was last assessed in 2013, and the stock is not overfished or subject to overfishing. In the Gulf of Alaska, Greenland turbot are assessed and managed along with Dover sole and deep-sea sole as part of the Deepwater Flatfish Complex. Greenland turbot are not as common in the Gulf of Alaska, and individual abundance estimates are unreliable. Its population status is based on the status of Dover sole, the indicator species for this complex. The complex was last assessed in 2013, and is not overfished or subject to overfishing.

Although the abundance of Greenland turbot is above target levels, it is at low levels compared to the 1970s and has been declining due to poor survival rates of juvenile turbot. Managers have set low catch limits for Greenland turbot as an added conservation measure. Recently, scientists have observed significant increases in reproduction and survival rates for Greenland turbot and expect abundance to increase in the near future.

 
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ADDITIONAL RESEARCH

Starting in 1999, scientists began tagging Greenland turbot each year using both conventional external tags (with unique identifiers) and implanted archival tags that record depth and temperatures. A number of both types of tagged fish have been recaptured. Some show extensive vertical and horizontal movements. In particular, researchers noted that spawning turbot make twice-daily excursions from below 1,500 meters to 300 to 400 meters.

 
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Harvesting Greenland Turbot

Fishermen use bottom trawls and longlines to harvest Greenland turbot. Turbot are harvested over sand and mud bottom habitats, which are usually more resilient to impacts from fishing than other habitats. Longlines can incidentally catch seabirds and other fish. Longline fishermen must use seabird avoidance devices, which effectively reduce seabird bycatch. Fishermen use circle hooks to increase the survival of any undersized halibut caught and released during commercial fishing. To reduce bycatch of other species, regulations prohibit fishing in specific depths and areas in the Bering Sea. There are also limits on the amount of Pacific halibut that can be incidentally caught in these fisheries. At-sea observers continue to monitor bycatch in these fisheries.

Greenland turbot are also harvested as bycatch in fisheries targeting other groundfish, including sablefish and Pacific cod.

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Management

Who’s in charge? NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council

Current management: Fishery Management Plans for Groundfish of the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska (In the Gulf of Alaska, Greenland turbot are managed as part of the Deepwater Flatfish complex, along with Dover sole and deep-sea sole.)

Greenland turbot fisheries are managed separately, but similarly, in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and in the Gulf of Alaska.

  • Fishermen must have a permit to harvest Greenland turbot, and the number of available permits is limited to control the amount of fishing.
  • The council sets conservative catch limits for turbot fisheries because they are unlikely to meet their allowed catch, which means more can be allotted for higher-valued species.
  • Catch is monitored through record keeping, reporting requirements, and observer monitoring.
  • Certain seasons and areas are closed to fishing due to habitat and other species considerations (e.g., king crab habitat).
  • Restrictions on the type of fishing gear that can be used.
  • Bycatch limits and rates: flatfish as a whole are lightly harvested, primarily due to halibut and crab bycatch limits which frequently close down the fisheries before they reach their catch quotas.
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Annual Harvest

In 2013, Alaska fishermen landed more than 3 million pounds of Greenland turbot.

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Economy

The 2012 harvest was valued at $4.76 million.

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OVERVIEW

Greenland turbot is very similar to halibut in both flavor and texture - it has dense, white flesh and sweet, rich flavor. Greenland turbot are sold as whole fish, headed and gutted fish, and kirimi (processed fish).

 
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SEASONAL AVAILABILITY

Year-round

 
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NUTRITION

Greenland turbot is a healthy, low-fat source of protein and is high in omega-3 fatty acids.

Servings 1
Serving Weight 100 g (raw)
Calories 186
Protein 14.37 g
Fat, total 13.84 g
Saturated fatty acids, total 2.419 g
Carbohydrate 0 g
Sugars, total 0 g
Fiber, total dietary 0 g
Cholesterol 46 mg
Selenium 36.5 mcg
Sodium 80 mg

Greenland turbot table of nutrition

 
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RECIPES

  • Coming Soon...

 
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