Atlantic Halibut by Longline

Scotian Shelf / Bay of Fundy


Atlantic Halibut


No seasonal dates identified.

Bottom Longline with Hooks

Fishermen use a bottom longline to catch Atlantic halibut. Baited hooks are attached to a line that is anchored to the ocean floor. With vessels limited to 65 feet (20 m) in length, this small-boat fishery takes place inshore. Fishermen are allowed to catch several secondary species, including cod, white hake and flounder, when fishing for Atlantic halibut.

Harvesting Method

Bottom Longline with Hooks

The longline consists of a long rope, spooled on a hydraulic drum, which fish harvesters set from the stern of their vessels. Baited hooks are fastened to this rope using clips or swivels. The longline is set along the ocean floor where bottom-dwelling fish live. It is marked on the ocean surface using a float and flagpole at each end. Fish harvesters can set several longlines at a time and haul them regularly to land their catch. Once aboard, the hooks are baited again, if need be, and the longline is reset.

Bottom Longline with Hooks

In Atlantic Canada, many different species are caught on bottom longlines. These include halibut, haddock, cod and pollock. About 767 vessels are licensed to fish Atlantic halibut in Nova Scotia, although only a small percentage of the fleet is active. 

Conservation Measures

Longline fishermen unintentionally catch undersized and unwanted species (bycatch) and non-targeted species such as white hake, cod and sharks when fishing for Atlantic halibut. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans does not limit the number of active vessels but instead the duration of fishing time to control fishing effort. A number of other measures also address conservation in this fishery, including:

  • strict annual catch limits;
  • a limitation on the size of licensed fishing vessels;
  • restrictions on hook sizes to protect small fish;
  • area closures for spawning and juvenile fish;
  • independent third-party observers aboard vessels at sea (generally 10 to 30 percent coverage depending on fishing area);
  • a maximum cap of bycatch on cod, sharks and white hake;
  • restrictions on landing small fish; and
  • dockside monitoring of catch unloading and mandatory logbooks for catch recording;

In this lobster fishing area, fish harvesters actively participate in scientific data collection and research such as:

  • a comprehensive data collection system on catches
  • scientific sampling of lobsters at sea
  • maintaining catch logbooks and scientific field notebooks

Scotian Shelf / Bay of Fundy


Ocean Wise - Under Review

SeaChoice - Some Concerns


Visit the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Gulf Region homepage for more info on the management of this fishery.


For the most recent stock status, check the Department of Fisheries and Ocean’s science advisory reports.

Quality and Handling

Atlantic halibut caught by longline are individually hauled aboard, cleaned, washed and stored on ice. Fishing vessels can stay at sea for more than a week. Properly handled and chilled on ice, fresh Atlantic halibut has a shelf life of 18 days.

Food Info Atlantic Halibut


  • Colour: very white
  • Texture: large flakes, a firm but tender texture and very lean
  • Flavour: fairly mild with a distinctive sweetness
  • Perfect serve: Its thick, succulent meat holds together perfectly when battered for traditional fish and chips, while its distinctive sweet flavour holds its own against the richness of this dish.