West Coast Halibut season is looming as March begins and fish lovers everywhere are eagerly anticipating this delicious fish to hit our market stand not only fresh, but also affordable. Who can help them? Halibut is the table favorite for many families and home chefs and it has been out of season for some time; the season ended in November. Halibut offers a beautiful thick white flesh that gives way to a great textural chew and its flavor is mild, reminiscent of starch and sunflower oil. It is a very versatile fish in the way that it is able to stand up to many recipes and cooking applications and always seems to be a crowd pleaser. Hold on though, there could be some surprises this season and going forward for this top predator fish.
The International Pacific Halibut Commission has cut the Halibut quota for this year by 18% this year from last year. (Remember that the quota was cut last year from the year before, meaning that from two years ago there will be even more of a dent in the landed quota.) This means as the season opens and closes less fish will be caught and, with lack of supply, we can be sure that prices will increase on the already expensive fish. Reportedly, the Alaskan Halibut fishery is cutting back quota due to the fact that there are not enough large fish in the water. Larger fish create more offspring, think by the millions, so in order for there to be a healthy amount of fish in the water, there must be some older fish.
The Alaskan Halibut fishery is considered to be in great standing with many third party sustainable seafood rankings, mostly because the fishery is based on individual quotas and implements by-catch regulations. The cut quota is a result of a well-managed fishery and so are higher prices and healthy fish stocks. We have to manage ourselves and leave fish in the water not only for our children but also for the sake of our environment. We may have to enjoy halibut a little less frequently this summer due to pricing, but I am sure we will appreciate it more knowing that each bite is guilt free and that we are being good stewards of such an important resource.