California Halibut

Scientific Name: Paralichthys californicus

Distribution: Northern Washington to southern Baja California and upper Gulf of California.

Habitat: Found from the surf to 922 ft (281 m), but most abundant from the surf to 197 ft (60 m) on sand, mud, and seagrass and the interfaces between these habitats.

Behavior: Important environmental factors influencing California halibut habitat selection and distribution include temperature, depth, water flow, salinity, and seafloor type. California halibut can tolerate estuarine conditions as well as high salinity (53 ppt). CA halibut remain stationary for extended periods of time, since they are ambush predators and wait for new prey to be swept or swim towards them. Within estuaries in SoCal, CA halibut were found to have a small daily area use space of only 0.04 acres (183.7 m2). Larger (> 9 inches (23 cm)) CA halibut in estuaries select for areas of high water flow as these areas may increase the amount prey swept towards them. Smaller halibut inhabit the back creeks of marshes selecting for warm waters far from larger predators. CA halibut eat crustaceans and fish, with their diet shifting to be primarily fishes as they grow larger.

Why it is important: California halibut are an important commercial and recreational fishery in southern California. The California halibut population has declined from historical accounts; this decline is attributed to overfishing and the destruction of coastal wetlands, which serve as a nursery habitat for juvenile halibut. California halibut are also a species listed under OEHHA’s consumption advisory guidelines for southern California due to contamination.

Sources: FishBase, Love 2011, Espasandin 2012, Freedman et al. 2015, Freedman et al. 2016

Quick Facts

Scientific Name: Paralichthys californicus

Conservation Status (IUCN): Least Concern

Lifespan: Females 30 years; Males 23 years

Age at Maturity: Females 7 years; Males 3 years

Maximum Weight: 72.5 lbs (33 kg)

Speed: Unknown

Maximum Length: 5 ft (152 cm)

Habitat: Temperate continental shelf, brackish waters, and embayments

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