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Greenland Turbot

Reinhardtius hippoglossoides

Illustration of a Greenland Turbot

Also Known As

  • Greenland halibut
  • Turbot
  • Newfoundland turbot
  • Blue halibut

U.S. wild-caught Greenland turbot is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations.

Population

Above target population levels in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands.

Fishing Rate

At recommended levels.

Habitat Impacts

Area closures and gear restrictions protect habitats affected by some types of fishing gear used to harvest Greenland turbot.

Bycatch

Regulations are in place to minimize bycatch.

  • Availability

    Year-round.

  • Source

    U.S. wild-caught from Alaska.

  • Taste

    Sweet, rich flavor that is similar to halibut.

  • Texture

    Dense.

  • Color

    White flesh.

  • Health Benefits

    A healthy, low-fat source of protein that is high in omega-3 fatty acids.

The U.S. Fishery

Fishery Management

  • NOAA Fisheries and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council manage the Greenland turbot fishery.
  • Managed separately but similarly under the Fishery Management Plans for Groundfish in the Gulf of Alaska and the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands.
    • Permits are required and the number of available permits is limited to control the amount of fishing.
    • Managers determine how much turbot can be harvested and then set annual catch limits. 
    • 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 and Pacific halibut).
    • In the Bering Sea, a percentage of the allowable catch is allocated to the community development quota program, which benefits fishery-dependent communities in western Alaska.

Harvest

  • In 2016, commercial landings of Greenland turbot totaled more than 4.7 million pounds and were valued at more than $1.88 million. The majority of the catch comes from the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands.
  • Gear types, habitat impacts, and bycatch:
    • Bottom trawls and longlines are used to harvest Greenland turbot.
    • Turbot are harvested over sand and mud ocean bottoms, which are more resilient to impacts from fishing than other habitats.
    • Longlines can incidentally catch seabirds and fish. Fishermen must use seabird avoidance devices, which help reduce seabird bycatch.
    • Fishermen use circle hooks to increase survival of undersized halibut caught and released during commercial fishing. 
    • There are limits on the amount of halibut that groundfish fisheries can incidentally catch. If the limit is reached, managers close the fishery for the remainder of the season.
    • A number of regulations, such as gear restrictions and closed areas, are used to prevent and reduce bycatch in the fishery.
    • Greenland turbot are also harvested incidentally in fisheries targeting other groundfish, including arrowtooth flounder, sablefish, and Pacific cod.

The Science

Population Status

  • In the Gulf of Alaska, Greenland turbot are assessed and managed as part of the deepwater flatfish complex. According to the 2017 stock assessment, the complex is not overfished and is not subject to overfishing.
  • According to the 2017 stock assessment, Greenland turbot in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands are not overfished and are not subject to overfishing.

Location

  • Greenland turbot are found throughout the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska regions in the North Pacific Ocean. They are less common in the Gulf of Alaska.
  • 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.

Habitat

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

Physical Description

  • A cousin of the 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.
  • They are yellowish or grayish-brown on top and paler on their undersides.
  • They have large mouths and large teeth. 

Biology

  • Greenland turbot grow quickly, can reach up to 25 pounds, and can live up to 21 years.
  • Females are able to reproduce when they reach about 2 feet in length and 9 years old.
  • They spawn in the winter in deep water near the ocean floor.
  • When they spawn, females release about 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, larvae move back out to deeper waters over the continental slope.
  • Greenland turbot feed on crustaceans, squid, and various fish.
  • Narwhals, Pacific cod, and halibut prey on Greenland turbot.

Research

  • Starting in 1999, scientists began tagging Greenland turbot using external tags and implanted tags that record depth and temperatures. A number of the tagged fish have been recaptured and 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.
  • Scientists age fish by counting marks on their otoliths (ear bones), like counting growth rings on trees.  Try your hand at ageing Greenland turbot here.

Last updated: 09/20/2018