Wednesday, January 31, 2018

why did the halibut cross the ocean? to see his flatmates

In a shocking and shameful dereliction of duty and a betrayal of everything that this blog stands for, I note that we have only done one halibut-related post in the last FIVE FREAKIN' YEARS, and that one was really just a passing mention before my attention wandered onto the subject of Katy Perry's tits. Oh sure, there's been Halibut Towers this and The Curse Of Electric Halibut that, but that butters no parsnips compared to raw unadorned data about large flatfish of the genus Hippoglossus.

The previous proper halibut post from October 2012 was mainly concerned with the catching of a whopping 186-kilogram specimen off the coast of Norway (as you'll see from the following stories, Norway is pretty much Halibutsville Central when it comes to big ones). In similar vein, today's Daily Mail carries a story about a British fisherman landing the "world's biggest ever halibut" while on a fishing trip to, you've guessed it, Norway. So what you'll be thinking is: wow, I wonder how big that was - the 2012 one made no claim to be a record-breaker but this one must be bigger than that, at the very least. So you'd perhaps be surprised to learn that this one weighed in at a mere 153 pounds, which is a fraction under 70 kilograms. It turns out that this is one of those records where you have to read the small print carefully - it's the biggest "shore-caught" halibut on record, the other monster ones being presumably landed onto boats.

Undeterred by this the fisherman carried out one of the primary obligations of the halibut-wrangler, which is to lie down next to the fish and pose for the photo. The canonical measure of halibut size (in contrast to giant squid size, where the standard London bus is used) from the selection of things deemed to be understandable by Joe Public, who has literally no idea how much a kilogram weighs, is some hand-wavey estimate of how many human-meal-sized portions it would yield. You'll recall my scepticism about the number quoted for the 186kg specimen - the claim made here is as follows:
The fish made 160 fillets, which would be worth around £4,000 to a high end fish restaurant
Two obvious thoughts: firstly that is under a sixth of the number of portions claimed for the 186kg halibut, a fish a little over two-and-a-half times as large. Since I found the original estimate implausible, maybe that's OK, though. But, secondly, if you do the price calculation, 160 portions fetching £4000 works out at 25 quid a portion. Can that be right? Well, Waitrose charge £28.99 a kilo for halibut, which works out at between £5 and £7 for a fairly normal-sized portion. Maybe "high end" restaurants (whose suppliers won't be charging as much as Waitrose, don't forget) really do apply that much of a mark-up.

Anyway, the proper world record for catching a halibut, no ifs, buts, maybes or nonsense about having to be standing on the shore, on a Tuesday, wearing a woolly hat and blue underpants, is a gargantuan 233kg specimen (although the Daily Mail, as is their wont, stick bloody-mindedly to various forms of imperial measurement throughout) caught by German fisherman Marco Liebenow back in 2013. "Heavier than a wild gorilla", apparently. A wild one, mind. Wild? I was absolutely livid, etc.

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