Greenland Halibut, Deep Water Gold from the Bottom of the Arctic Ocean

greenland halibut

In the Arctic Sea the Greenland Halibut is a circumpolar fish but some of the best commercial fishing is found in the waters of Davis Strait and Baffin Bay.

Most of the pictures you will see on this page are from the M.V. Hamilton banker and the M.V. Nunatsiavut Nanuk, two vessels that I skippered while fishing Greenland Halibut in Davis Strait and Baffin Bay.

Fishing Vessel Nunatsiavut Nanuk Hamilton Banker wheelhouse view

The fishing was done by bottom gill net in very deep water, up to 850 fathoms or 1554 meters, that's over 1.5 kilometres of water.

Very few other species live in the Arctic Ocean in this depth of water. Some notable others are the Greenland Shark and Skate. The Narwhals also frequent this depth to feed on the Greenland Halibut, however they can only stay down for a brief period and then must return to the surface for air.

Greenland Shark

Greenland Shark

Greenland Halibut from these Arctic waters are an highly sought after fish especially when processed properly and quick frozen at sea to maintain optimum quality.

The Greenland Halibut (more commonly know as Turbot on the east coast of canada) we caught were processed immediately upon coming onboard the vessel. They had the head removed by a method we refer to as a "J" cut. The gut was extracted and the blood line scraped. The fish was then washed, size and quality graded, packed in the appropriate manner and either blast of plate frozen before being stored below deck in the refrigerated -20° cargo hold.

The finished product was a very high quality, great tasting, ocean fresh, delightsome fish, fit for the plate of a king.

I might add as well that very little went back to the sea. The heads were frozen and went to market for further processing and as the market dictated sometimes the tails as well.

Turbot fishing Greenland halibut by net hauler Turbot Processing Greenland Halibut in plate freezer trays Turbot in Plate Freezer Turbot Factory Deck Greenland Halibut in Cargo Hold Nunatsiavut Nanuk in Sisimiut Greenland

Baffin Bay above the Arctic Circle is a very challenging place to fish. Ice free for only about 100 days per year you have to be very careful with you time of entry into the region as well as your time of departure.

Around the middle of July when the ice breaks up it is a fascinating world of 24 hour daylight, massive icebergs, Polar Bears and incredible beauty. With days turning into weeks of flat calm fishing weather.

By October and into November things change dramatically.24 hr. daylight turns into 18 hours of darkness and flat calm seas turn into sudden storms of great intensity often accompanied by snow and blizzard like conditions.

Not a place this time of year for the faint of heart or lovers of sandy warm beaches in the Caribbean.

Fishing Vessel Nunatsiavut Nanuk in Arctic Storm

You will find several links scattered throughout this page to websites with excellent technical information on the Greenland Halibut. I wanted to just give a little taste here of what it's like to fish for this amazing fish in the waters of the Arctic Ocean.

If you would like more information on Greenland Halibut fishing in the Arctic, where to purchase the fish or information on the vessels that take part in this fishery, just drop us a line through the "contact us" link with your requirements and we will do our best to answer your questions.

Greenland Halibut

If you are wondering about conservation and responsible harvesting methods, the following may answer some questions.

Quotas for the various gear types and vessel classes are set very conservatively.

For both Gill Net and Otter Trawl mesh size is regulated as is the amount of gear used.

Canadian fishery observers are carried onboard at all times.

Areas that the fishery may take place in are regulated by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Vessel's are tracked continuously by satellite tracking systems from transmitters that must be operative at all times on each vessel.

Opening and closing dates for the fishing season, the minimum size for individual fish caught and any by catch or incidental catch are also regulated and closely monitored by DFO.

Hamilton Banker in Baffin Bay Hercules surveillance plane

Another interesting dynamic to fishing in the High Arctic is the need to be self sufficient. Supplies are not readily available as they are in the south and when they are available cost becomes a factor because of air transportation.

Medical services can also be an issue when fishing that far north. Various types of medical supplies and equipment must be carried onboard for emergency treatment of many conditions and accidents that may take place at sea.

Environmental issues are very important in the North. Oily water separators, sludge and sewage tanks, proper methods of garbage storage and disposal, and many other logistical items are always at the forefront.

Carrying ample supplies of fuel and lube oils safely, making your own fresh water onboard, keeping a crew of 20 to 40 men safe, comfortable and happy. These are just some of the challenges to fishing Greenland Halibut in the High Arctic Waters.

Baffin Fisheries Coalition Vessel Oujukoaq

I hope you have enjoyed and learned something from this page on Greenland Halibut fishing in the polar region.

What I have talked about here is from my own experience of fishing with fixed gear. Other vessels carry on the fishery with Otter Trawl and Hook and Line, both of which have their own unique challenges in this often hostile environment.

And of course the Native peoples of Baffin Island and Greenland also fish Greenland Halibut when the sea is frozen through holes cut in the icy surface.

Whatever the method one thing is sure, those who spend time at the top of the world never forget its amazing beauty and wonder. It is a place difficult to explain, I guess the old adage fits here very well… "You just have to be there!"

Arctic Sunset

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