Stephanie whipped up a (mostly) local chowder this evening. Huge pieces of our halibut, together with potatoes from local grower Ben Vanderweele (there’s a one minute multimedia presentation about his farm here), gave the soup its heft.

Even in the depths of winter, eating the fish we caught provides a little glimpse of the summer to come. Halibut don’t run like salmon but the weather does have to be decent to go after them, which eliminates much of the year. My sister-in-law Mary hooked this particular fish from a charter boat during the Seward Jackpot Halibut Tournament in June.

At 130.2-pounds it was larger than the fish we usually catch (normally we’re pulling in 20-40 pound ‘chickens’) but barely half the eventual winner’s 252.2-pounds. As the largest fish of the day it won Mary a free charter next year and, together with the smaller fish caught that day, provided plenty of meat for our two households over the winter.

Eating local means understanding your meal in context and here’s the flip-side our halibut:

According to NOAA, a 50-pound female halibut can produce 50,000 eggs. A 250-pound female can produce four million eggs. So the larger the fish taken the greater impact to the breeding stock. Pacific halibut is not overfished, but it’s something to think about.

Heavy metal contamination is a little more serious, especially since we have young children. The State of Alaska released new fish consumption guidelines in October. The press release said, in part:

Only five species of sport-caught Alaska fish had high enough mercury levels to warrant limiting consumption to two meals or less per week for [pregnant women and children under 12]. Yelloweye rockfish, large lingcod (40-45 inches) and large halibut (50-90 pounds) can be eaten as often as twice a week, while salmon shark, spiny dogfish, very large lingcod (over 45 inches) and very large halibut (over 90 pounds) can be consumed as often as once a week

Eat locally, act globally.