Greenland halibut is an Arctic fish that is found in waters with temperatures below 4°C. The spawning areas of Greenland halibut are found along the continental shelf slopes between Vesterålen and Spitsbergen. The species is late to reach sexual maturity: between the age of four and five for the male fish and not until the age of nine to ten for the female fish. The rearing ground is mainly near Svalbard. As an adult and sexually mature fish, it lives along the continental shelf slopes at depths of 600–1,200 metres, but it can also live in shallower waters in the Barents Sea. Greenland halibut can reach a length of up to 1.2 metres and a weight of 20 kg. Its life span is more than 30 years.
Greenland halibut fishing is regulated and takes place during defined periods of the year. Greenland halibut is mostly sold smoked, whole and in steaks.
The fat content of Greenland halibut varies with the season and its access to food, and the amount of omega-3 fatty acids will therefore vary. It is nevertheless a good source of these fatty acids and also of vitamin D.
Content of undesirable substances
A thorough investigation of the levels of undesirable substances in Greenland halibut (baseline study) showed that the EU's maximum levels for dioxins and dioxin-like PCBs was exceeded in Greenland halibut from two positions north-west of the Trænabanken bank and a position along the continental shelf slopes off Lofoten. These areas are therefore closed for fishing, and Greenland halibut from these areas do not reach the market.
Greenland halibut contains more mercury than cod fish, but well below maximum limits and the content of other undesirable substances, such as, cadmium, lead and arsenic, is generally low.
Every year, NIFES monitors Greenland halibut from several positions along the continental shelf slope, including positions within the two areas closed to fishing.