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Types and Sources of Products
There are several different types of flatfish available to the seafood consumer in the United States. The most recognizable species include halibut, flounder and sole.
As the name implies, flatfish have an unusually flat body shape which make them well-suited for life close to the ocean floor. There are many different species of flatfish that are sold as flounder or sole which are among the top 10 species consumed in the United States.
The majority of flounder and sole are commercially harvested in the U.S. by trawl net fisheries. Hook and line fisheries are responsible for the majority of halibut catch. There are also important recreational fisheries that catch flounder and halibut by hook and line.
Flatfish species including flounder, sole, halibut and turbot are also imported into the United States for consumption as fresh or frozen dressed fish, fillets or blocks. Flounder and sole are imported primarily from Canada, China, Europe, Mexico and Argentina. Halibut is imported primarily from Canada, China and Europe.
There are many different flounder species worldwide, and flounder are harvested in the U.S. in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. The primary Atlantic species are Summer, Winter, Yellowtail and Witch flounder. The primary Pacific species is Arrowtooth flounder which is primarily harvested in Alaskan waters. Most flounder are harvested by trawl fisheries.
The three largest sole fisheries in the United States by volume are for Rock sole, Flathead sole, and Dover sole from the Pacific Ocean. Rock and Flathead sole are primarily caught in Alaskan waters, and Dover Sole is caught along the U.S. Pacific coast fishery with the majority of landings coming into Oregon. Sole is primarily harvested by trawl vessels.
The majority of halibut landed in the United States commercially is Pacific halibut. Managed by a treaty between the United States and Canada, harvesting is done by bottom long-line gear and takes place off of Alaska, Washington and Oregon.
Flatfishes are generally available as fresh or frozen whole or dressed fish or fillets. Some species of fresh flatfish may be only available during certain times of the year. Frozen dressed fish or fillets or steaks are likely to be available year round.
Flatfish are all low fat white fish with a mild taste. The taste and texture varies from one species to another. All flatfish are less than 100 calories per 3 ounce cooked serving, are a good source of protein and have less than 2 grams of fat. Most flatfish species are also a good source of niacin, B vitamins, phosphorus, calcium and selenium.
Management & Sustainability
The Arrowtooth Flounder fishery off the west coast is managed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council and the population is healthy. The Alaskan Arrowtooth fishery is managed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and this population is also healthy with no overfishing occurring.
The Summer Flounder fishery is managed by the Atlantic State Marine Fisheries Commission and the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council. Once overfish, summer flounder recovered to sustainable levels in 2011 under a rebuilding plan. The Winter and Yellowtail flounder fisheries are managed by the New England Fishery Management Council, and strict management measures have been implemented to rebuild these populations, some of which are overfished.
The Dover sole fishery off the west coast is managed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council – the populations are healthy and no overfishing is occurring. The Dover sole fishery in Alaska is managed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.
The Rock and Flathead sole fisheries in Alaska are managed by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. These populations are considered healthy and no overfishing is occurring.
Pacific Halibut is managed by the International Pacific Halibut Commission through a treaty between the United States and Canada. Pacific halibut populations are healthy and no overfishing is occurring.