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May 09, 2011

Right Bite Fish of the Month: Pacific Halibut

May’s Fish of the Month is Pacific halibut.

Do you ever feel like life is a little sideways? No need to worry, Pacific halibut can relate. As larvae, halibut swim right-side up like other fish.  As they grow, one eye physically drifts towards the second eye, making Pacific halibut a groundfish or “side swimmer.” Within the first year of life, juveniles settle to the seafloor hiding everything but their murky eyes & hungry mouths.

Pacific halibut is the world’s largest known flatfish and can weigh more than 500 pounds! With few predators, this species has mastered hide-and-seek considering its hefty size. Today, the largest demand for halibut comes from human consumption. It is a highly-regarded fish among the epicurean world for its meaty, juicy texture and versatility.  But, its unique habitat makes ocean-friendly gear essential to long-term sustainability.

Compared to Atlantic halibut, which is largely bottom-trawled, Pacific halibut is caught with bottom longlines.  Yes, longlines! Bottom longlines are quite different than destructive pelagic longlines intended for seafood such as tuna or swordfish. With fishing lines & hooks weighted to the seabed, bottom longlines intentionally catch groundfish like halibut, making bycatch minimal to none. Even more, the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC) regulates overfishing with total allowable catch limits and j-hooks, which reduce the accidental catch of juveniles.

Pacific halibut is on Shedd’s “best choice” list for sustainable seafood thanks to proper regulation, catch limits and fishing gear. It is also certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council, the world’s leading certification and ecolabelling program for sustainable seafood. Try out our sweet & savory Baked Halibut with Orange-Cranberry Chutney for a sustainable seafood meal.

Baked Halibut with Orange-Cranberry Chutney
Serves 4


4 (5 oz.) US Pacific Halibut filets
½ cup light soy sauce
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
½ onion, diced
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ cup brown sugar
¼ cup cider vinegar
1 cup of cranberries
¼ cup of orange juice
Olive oil
For Garnish: Basil sprigs & 2 tsp. fresh orange zest


1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees

2. Liberally rub soy sauce, salt and pepper over halibut filets & let marinate for 15 minutes in refrigerator

3. Combine ginger, onion, cinnamon, sugar, vinegar, cranberries & orange juice in saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer about 20 minutes, or until thick

4. While chutney simmers, heat 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil in sauté pan over high heat. Sear fish for 3 minutes on each side to lock in flavor

5. Transfer to oiled baking dish and bake for another 5-7 minutes

6. Plate halibut with warm chutney, sprinkle on basil & zest

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I love the way you cooked it! I wish I could cook it the same as you did - you are really a professional!

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