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Seafood in the Spotlight: Halibut

Harpswell Heritage Land Trust
July 5, 2016

By Monique Coombs, Seafood Program Director for the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association

Photo courtesy of Maine Coast Fishermen's Association

Photo courtesy of Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association

So, you want the freshest most local fish you can get, right?  Well right now, I highly recommend looking around for some halibut.  (Try Gurnet Trading in Brunswick or Cantrell’s Seafood in Topsham.)  Just a few years ago halibut quotas were very low, meaning that fishing was restricted to allow the species to rebound.  In the past couple of years the species has rebounded and so the quota has increased.

Many fishermen this year chose to purchase a halibut license and tags.  In order to fish for something like halibut, which has a strict quota, fishermen have to purchase tags to keep track of how much they are fishing.  Commercial fishermen are allowed 25 tags, which means they cannot catch more than 25 halibut during the season.  The halibut season is open to commercial fishermen from May 1 to July 30. (You still have some time to get lots of halibut!)

Halibut are a larger flatfish.  When they are born they are round, have one eye on each side of their head and swim like a pollock or cod.  As they grow, one eye migrates towards the other eye and they flatten to become more like a flounder.  (So cool!)

This May, a fisherman that Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association works with sold some fresh halibut to a few places around Brunswick, including the Frontier Café.  It was exciting for both the restaurant and fisherman to shorten the distance the fish had to travel from sea to plate.  It went right from the fisherman’s hands to the restaurant kitchen.  You can read more about that experience HERE.

Halibut is an excellent fish that has a long shelf-life.  As a matter of fact, if kept very cold, halibut can stay in the refrigerator for up to 14 days!  It also freezes very well and is easy to cook.  Halibut fillets are thicker than a hake or cod fillet so the cooking time is a little bit longer.

Monique Coombs, Seafood Program Director for the Maine Coast Fishermen’s Association, contributes a “Seafood in the Spotlight” column for the HHLT newsletter to help point out lesser known species, highlights from the seafood industry in Maine and recipes. Feel free to contact her at: monique@mainecoastfishermen.org.