With sizes more than 8 feet in length and weights surpassing the 500 pound mark, you can see why the largest of all flatfish is referred to by Alaska fisherman as “Barn Doors” for their massive size. Hy-Vee is pleased to introduce the availability of this popular fish, Alaskan Pacific halibut, to its meat counter.
Pacific halibut is often considered America’s favorite white fish. You can find halibut on restaurant menus and in fresh seafood cases across the country for grilling at home during the summer. Alaskan Pacific halibut is a mild, delicate and sweet-tasting white fish. Uncooked, the meat should be almost translucent — not dull, yellowish or dry. When cooked, the snowy-white meat loses its glossy appearance and flakes at the touch of a fork. As an added bonus, its versatility in the kitchen is almost limitless. The thick, meaty flesh holds up well to a number of cooking methods and sauces, and it’s an ideal item to skewer for a summer BBQ.
Hy-Vee is pleased to label Alaskan Pacific halibut as a Responsible Choice seafood item this year. Today, the only legal fishing method for commercial Pacific halibut fishermen is longline gear, aimed at the typical market size for this year’s catch of 10 to 15 pound halibut, which is much smaller than the 500 pound giants these flatfish can sometimes become. The 2015 season got underway on March 14 and will run until November 7, or until the quota of 29,223,000 pounds is met.
This season, Hy-Vee got its first taste of fresh Pacific halibut the week of season open on March 16. This was possible as all of our fish from Alaska are flown via Fed-Ex® overnight from Alaska to the Des Moines International Airport. After going through our U.S. Department of Commerce Inspection process at Perishable Distributors of Iowa (PDI), Hy-Vee stores have the opportunity to receive fresh halibut that has been out of Alaskan waters for only 48 hours. That is quite a feat, especially in the Midwest.
In general, the Alaska Pacific halibut commercial fisheries, including Hy-Vee’s primary vendor Copper River Seafoods, are selective in the fish they catch because of the size of the hook needed to harvest such a large fish – using a large hook generally reduces bycatch of smaller fish. Fishermen use circle hooks to increase catch rates and to improve the survival of any undersized halibut caught and released during commercial fishing. To reduce bycatch of other ground fish, regulations prohibit commercial Pacific halibut fisheries in specific depths and areas off the West Coast. The United States and Canada coordinate management through a bilateral commission known as the International Pacific Halibut Commission. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries and the North Pacific and Pacific Fishery Management Councils are responsible for allocating allowable catch among users in the U.S. fisheries through the NOAA FishWatch.
Although the Alaska Pacific halibut commercial fishery industry has changed substantially over the years, the science-based management of the fisheries has remained constant, sustaining this industry for nearly 100 years. This is another testament to the Alaskan fisheries being some the best managed sustainable fishery industries in the world. Because of its well-managed fisheries and practices, Hy-Vee is proud to label Alaskan Pacific halibut with our Responsible Choice logo of approval.