Northern Wolffish

Anarhichas denticulatus

SARA Status
No Status
NS
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

SARA Status

  • No Status NS
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX
COSEWIC Status
Not at Risk
NR
Special Concern
SC
Threatened
TH
Endangered
EN
Extirpated
EX

COSEWIC Status

  • Not at Risk NR
  • Special Concern SC
  • Threatened TH
  • Endangered EN
  • Extirpated EX

Description

The Northern Wolffish (Anarhichas denticulatus) is a large marine fish from a family that was given the name “wolffish” because of their protruding front teeth and powerful jaws. Its head is small (relative to the body) with a small mouth and blunt snout, small eyes and a long, stout body with small pectoral fins (no pelvic fins), as compared with the other two wolffish species found in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. It has a more uniform body colour than the other two wolffish species, ranging from charcoal-black to dark chocolate. The Northern Wolffish can grow to 180 cm in length.

Habitat

The Northern Wolffish occurs from Iceland and the Faroe Islands to the waters of Norway and the Barents Sea. In the northwestern Atlantic and Canadian Arctic, its range extends from Baffin Bay to the Gulf of Maine and includes the Labrador and northeast Newfoundland Shelves, the Grand Banks, the Flemish Cap, the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and the Scotian Shelf. This species is most abundant in the deep waters of the continental shelf, off northeastern Newfoundland and on the Labrador Shelf and to a lesser extent along the shelf edge of the Grand Bank. It is only occasionally observed in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, on the Scotian Shelf, in the Gulf of Maine, the Bay of Fundy, Baffin Bay and Davis Strait. There are also four confirmed records from the western Arctic.

Northern Wolffish is a benthopelagic fish ─ spending most of its time slowly swimming and feeding on moving creatures, mostly pelagic and benthic fish, just above the ocean floor. It prefers colder water temperatures, between 2.5 and 4.5˚C, and is usually found at depths between 500 and 1000 m. The highest concentrations of Northern Wolffish are on sand and shell hash bottom types.

wolfish

Figure 1. Map displaying the approximate distribution of the Northern Wolffish (adapted from the 2012 Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessment on the Northern Wolffish Anarhichas denticulatus in Canada).

Map displaying the distribution of the Northern Wolffish. The extent of the map is 40 to 70 degrees North latitude. Northern Wolffish are found in the waters off of Nova Scotia, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, around the island of Newfoundland, up the Labrador coast to Baffin Island. The map is adapted from the 2012 Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessment on the Northern Wolffish Anarhichas denticulatus in Canada).

Threats

The main threat to Northern Wolffish is bycatch in fisheries targeting other species. Climate change could also affect the distribution and abundance of Northern Wolffish.

Further Information

The Northern Wolffish is listed as Threatened under the Species at Risk Act. A Recovery Strategy was published for Northern Wolffish in 2008, with the main goal being to increase population levels and distribution of Northern Wolffish such that long-term viability of the population is achieved. Some means to accomplish this are: to improve the knowledge of Northern Wolffish biology and life history, to identify, conserve and protect their habitat, to mitigate human impacts on their habitat and survival, to promote their growth and recovery, and to develop and deliver educational programs to promote their conservation and recovery.

For more information, visit the Species at Risk (SARA) Public Registry Profile.

Northern Wolffish

Illustration of a redfish

Illustration of a Northern Wolffish viewed from the side. The Northern Wolffish is brownish grey in colour. Its head is small (relative to the body) with a small mouth and blunt snout, small eyes and a long, stout body with small pectoral fins. The fin along the back (the dorsal fin) extends from the head all the way to the tail fin and the fin on the bottom of the fish (the anal fin) extends from the middle of the belly all the way to the tail fin. The tail fin is small relative to the body.

Scientific Name: Anarhichas denticulatus
SARA Status: Threatened (2003)
COSEWIC Status: Threatened (May 2001; November 2012)
Regions: Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut, Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island

Did You Know?

Slim, sharp teeth that curve backwards towards the throat allow Northern Wolffish to eat shrimp, krill, pelagic and benthic fish, and gelatinous zooplankton such as sea gooseberries.

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