Pacific halibut

Halibut habitat

Pacific halibut are the largest flatfish, weighing up to 500 pounds, and living for over 50 years. They are demersal, meaning they live close to the seafloor. Pacific halibut inhabit the continental shelf of the northern Pacific, from Japan to California.

A life of travel
Adult Pacific halibut migrate during winter from shallower feeding areas into deeper waters to spawn. They lay up to 2,000,000 eggs, which are transported from the spawning grounds by ocean currents, and may travel for hundreds of miles. The eggs hatch after two weeks, and by six months, the halibut are living on the seafloor. They fully mature after eight to 12 years.
The bigger the halibut, the bigger their meal
When first hatched, Pacific halibut are called larvae, and feed on zooplankton. As they grow larger, they move into deeper water, consuming small fish and euphausiids (shrimp-like crustaceans). As adults, Pacific halibut eat fish such as herring, smelt, rockfish and sablefish, as well as octopus, clams and crabs.
This way up
Pacific halibut hatch with their eyes on either side of their body, but as they grow older, their left eye usually moves to their right side. Only one in 20,000 Pacific halibut has eyes on the left side. The “eyes side” faces up when Pacific halibut swim.
Camouflaged fish
The down-facing side of the Pacific halibut is a whitish color, but the up-facing side is brown or black, with mottling and blotches. This counter-shading coloration helps them blend in with their surroundings—with the seafloor when viewed from above, and with light from the sky when viewed from below—to avoid being detected by their prey, as well as predators such as sharks and marine mammals.
How to help the halibut
In the past, Pacific halibut have been overfished, but that is now more closely regulated. Nevertheless, like all ocean life, halibut need clean water to thrive. Helping keep our ocean free of pollution will let Pacific halibut thrive.


 Pacific halibut range

Quick Facts

Diet: Carnivorous
Size: Up to 8 feet
Pacific halibut