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Recovery Strategy for three Wolffish: Northern, Spotted & Atlantic (Proposed) 2007

8.  Importance To People

Historically there were no significant directed fisheries for wolffish in Canadian waters and, prior to March 2003, the only applicable regulation regarding wolffish is contained in the 1985 Atlantic Fishery Regulations that mandated fishers to retain and land all wolffish bycatch.

Following the decline of many “traditional” species in the early to mid-1990s, A. minor and A. lupus, as well as other “non-traditional” species, were considered as potential candidates for new directed fisheries. Of the three wolffish species, only A. minor and A. lupus have commercial value and as a result of concerted marketing efforts in the 1990s, commercial interest in wolffish had increased. Product demand had improved its market value in the late 1990s.  Increasingly, A. minor and A. lupus were processed into frozen or fresh fillets. In addition, it was known that the skin of A. minor can be tanned and used for leather. Since A. denticulatus has no commercial value, it had been discarded and not reported to DFO. A. denticulatus are occasionally consumed by Greenlanders, though their gelatinous flesh is not generally favored and its skin is not suitable for secondary processing (COSEWIC unpublished).

Experimental fishing, however, did not identify areas where catch rates were sufficiently high to warrant directed commercial exploitation. Therefore, all three species were caught in mixed fisheries or incidentally through targeted fisheries, primarily for Greenland halibut (Reinhardtius hippoglossoides) but also with other demersal fisheries such as cod (Gadus morhua), and yellowtail founder (Limanda ferruginea). Invertebrate fisheries such as for shrimp and crab species incidentally capture wolffish as well.

Mandatory release of A. minor and A. denticulatus in a manner that maximizes chance of survival, has been instituted through license amendments in the all Atlantic Regions of DFO as of 2004. Consequently, fishers, if previously retaining A. minor for market purposes, may notice a decrease in the total landed value of their catch as they are now required to return that species to the ocean at the point of capture. The greatest captures of wolffish for commercial trade were reported from the south coast of Newfoundland and from Nova Scotia. However, nearly all of the captures from those areas areA. lupus.

8.1  Newfoundlandand Labrador Region Landings and Value

All three wolffish species in the Newfoundland and Labrador Region were reported in DFO landing statistics as “catfish”. Therefore, species-specific analysis cannot be conducted and only broad socioeconomic conclusions can be reached.[1] However, fishery observers deployed to a portion of the fleets in most Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries estimate the catch of wolffish by species. Their records indicate that prior to the mandatory release requirement in mid-2003, A. denticulatus were discarded and thus landings comprised the other two species. Since June 2002, some processors/buyers have been documenting wolffish landings according to species, verifying that A. denticulatus are not landed, as recommended by the Recovery Team.

8.1.1   Landings and Value

There is no directed fishery for any species of wolffish in the Newfoundland and Labrador Region, but a bycatch of A. lupus was permitted from 2004-2005 to present. Prior to the implementation of the mandatory release policy, onlyA. minor and A. lupus had commercial value in Newfoundland and Labrador. A. denticulatus was discarded and not reported to DFO. As well, about 50% of A. lupusand A. minor bycatch were discarded (observer records) and not reported, thus the landing statistics underestimate the actual catch rate. The average yearly wolffish reported landing during 1995-2002 was 289,125 kg, peaking in 2002 at 522,752 kg. The average landed value over the same period was $136,182 with unit price per kg ranging from $2.05 in 1995 to $0.42 in 2002 (Table 4 and Figure 5). 

Table 4. Landed Volume and Landed Value of Wolffish Bycatch (1995-2002) Newfoundlandand Labrador Region.

YearLandings (kg)Value ($)Average Price ($)

8.1.2   Bycatch by Directed Fishery

Wolffish is a common bycatch in about 20 directed fisheries being conducted in nine NAFO (statistical) Divisions adjacent to the Newfoundland and Labrador Region (see Figure 1). With the exception of the crab fishery, all wolffish landings reported are bycatch in demersal fisheries.

The cod fishery accounted for the highest landings of wolffish bycatch during 1995-2002. During that period, nearly 59% of the total wolffish landings and 46% of wolffish landed value resulted as a bycatch in the cod fishery in NAFO Division 3P (Table 5).

Wolffish (primarily A. lupus) bycatch landings increased for many directed fisheries after 1994 given the increased interest as commercial species. During 2001 and 2002, both the Greenland halibut and yellowtail flounder fisheries reported significantly higher wolffish bycatch. This trend may be the result of increased directed fishing effort for those species during the late 1990s, increased retention and reporting of wolffish bycatch, and/or increase in the wolffish population itself (Table 6).

Table 5. Average Landings and Value of Wolffish Bycatch by Directed Fishery (1995-2002) Newfoundland  and Labrador Region.



Wolffish Landings (kg)Wolffish Value ($)
Yearly Average%Yearly Average%
Yellowtail Flounder31,9211114,56811
Greenland halibut29,1581011,4558
American Plaice3,82411,4991
Winter Flounder626.2258.2
Hake, White574.2358.3
Total289,125 162,182 

Table 6.Yearly Wolffish Landings by Directed Fishery (1995-2002).

Directed Fishery19951996199719981999200020012002
Cod, Atlantic06312,937179,113345,566404,886212,397218,055
Yellowtail Flounder0002,6145,4344,29054,873177,157
G. halibut3,7308,04913,5602,05111,62834,52061,99697,729
Am.  Plaice24156517,2014,7847,1595,2485,972
Winter Flounder1005406616681,2319651,329
White Hake440864762675112,871510

8.1.3   Bycatch by NAFO Division, Statistical Area and Statistical Sections

The highest wolffish bycatches were landed in NAFO Subdivision 3Ps (40%), Division 4R (19%), Subdivision 3Pn (18%) and Division 3N (12%) during 1995-2002 (Table 7, Figure 6). Observer records suggest that the majority of landings in these areas compriseA. lupus. The landed value for areas approximate the landed volumes. Combined, these divisions and subdivisions account for 256,843 kg (or 89%) of the total landings, and $122,611 (or 91%) of total landed value.

Table 7. Average Wolffish Landings and Value by NAFO Division (1995-2002)

Newfoundlandand Labrador Region.

 NAFO (Sub) DivisionLandings kgValue $
Yearly Average%Yearly Average%
TOTAL289,125 136,182 

When assessed, NAFO Subdivision 3Ps and 3Pn account for 49% of the average landings during the 1995-2002 and 45% of the landed value.  Area I (Point Crewe – Pass Island Point) and H (Cape St. Mary’s and Point Crewe) account for 14% and 12% of landed volume, respectively (see Table 8).

Table 8.  Average Wolffish Landings and Value by Statistical Area (1995-2002).

 Statistical AreaLandings kgValue $
Yearly Average%Yearly Average%
J (3Ps & 3Pn) Pass Island Point – Cape Ray140,7554961,82745
I (3Ps) Point Crewe – Pass Island Point41,5791422,19716
H (3ps) Cape St. Mary’s –Point Crewe35,4911218,54814
K (4R) Cape Ray – Cape St. George21,91389,6077
L (4R) Cape St. George – Cape St. Gregory10,51945,6334
M (4R) Cape St. Gregory –Point Riche9,89035,7414
D (3L) Cape Bonavista – Grates Cove9,12533,1132
N (4R) Point Riche – Cape Norman6,89622,7662
F (3L) Cape St. Francis – Cape Race4,10511,9282
B (3K) Cape St. John – Cape Freels3,46512,0371
C (3L) Cape Freels – Cape Bonavista3,18511,5971
A (3K) Cape Norman – Cape St. John1,71218941
E (3L) Grates Point – Cape St. Francis438<1270<1
G (3L) Cape Race – Cape St. Mary’s48<120<1
O (2J) Point St. Charles – Cape Rouge16<17<1
TOTAL289,125 136,182 

When assessed by “statistical section”, Section 39 (Area J, 3Pn), encompassing the area between Rose Blanche Point and Cape Ray, accounted for 19% of the average landings during the 1995-2002 and 16% of the landed value.  Section 37 (Area J, 3Pn), area including ports between Cape la Hune and Fox Point, accounted for 19% of total landings and 18% of total value, while Section 32 (Area I, 3Ps), area encompassing Jean de Baie Head to Point Crewe, reported 10% and 9% landed value (Figure 7 and Table 9)

Table 9. Average Wolffish Landings and Value by Statistical Area (1995-2002)Newfoundlandand Labrador Region (Figure 6).

Statistical SectionStat. AreaNAFO Div.Landings (t)% of TotalValue($)% of Total
39 Rose Blanche Pt. – Cape RayJ3Pn55,3701918,23916
37 Cape la Hune – Fox Pt.J3Ps54,5461924,38018
32 Jean de Baie Head – Pt. CreweH3Ps27,9151012,3249
35 Boxey Pt. – Pass Island Pt.I3Ps21,152711,2318
38 Fox Pt. – Rose Blanche Pt.J3Pn19,740710,4918
40 Cape Ray – Harbour Pt.K4R18,23967,3765
33 Pt. Crewe – Pt. RosieI3Ps15,44157,4625
36 Pass Island Pt.  – Cape la HuneJ3Ps11,10045,7394
14 Cape Bonavista – South HeadD3L8,96933,0382
42 Cape St. George – Long Pt.L4R7,77034,0873
48 Pt. Riche – Ferolle Pt.N4R6,71222,7202
34 Pt. Rosie – Boxey Pt.I3Ps4,98623,5043
45 Cape St. Gregory – Martin’s Pt.M4R4,94422,5252
31 Grandy Pt. – Jean de Baie HeadH3Ps4,58024,7083
41 Harbour Pt. – Cape St. GeorgeK4R3,67412,2312
46  Martin’s Pt. – Daniel’s HarbourM4R2,88711,9961
30  Bauld Head – Grandy Pt.H3Ps2,24911,2271
26  Cape Broyle – Cape RaceF3L2,24211,0791
47 Daniel’s Harbour – Pt. RicheM         4R2,05911,2201
  8 Change Island – Fogo IslandB3K2,01511,1911
43  Long Pt. – Broad Cove Pt.L4R1,38111,0331
24  Cape St. Francis – Cape SpearF3L1,84318441
Remainder of Sections <1%  9,870345643
Total  289,125 136,182 

8.1.4   Landings and Value by Community and Fishers for 2002

During 2002, 1005 fishers in the Newfoundland and Labrador Region reported wolffish landings.  Only 18 fishers reported landed values greater than $1000, while 50 fishers reported values greater than $500 (Table 10).  The remaining 955 fishers averaged $168. All fishers reporting wolffish bycatch were core fishers.

During 2002, Burgeo fishers reported the largest volume of wolffish totaling 25,885 kg at a value of $12,297; followed by Lapoile landed 22,873 kg valued at $12,023, and Channel – Port aux Basques landed 18,873 kg worth $9,847 (see Table 10). 

During 2002, wolffish bycatch accounted for 5-7% of annual fishing income ($1,323-$5,063) for 7 fishers (1 Ramea, 1 Port aux Basques, 2 Lapoile, 3 Burgeo) in 3Ps and 3Pn.  

Table 10.  Wolffish Bycatch Landings and Values >$500 (2002), Newfoundlandand Labrador Region.

Community# of FishersNAFO Division2002 Landings kg2002 Values $
Channel–Port aux Basques23Pn18,5699,847
Port aux Choix44R5,7772,557
Three Rock Cove14R4,5932,038
Isle aux Morts23Pn3,0901,363
La Scie13K3,0651,351
Burnt Island23Pn2,9351,333
Fox Roost23Pn2,7241,203
Harbour Breton13Ps2,4881,097
Cape Ray13Pn1,764959
Rose Blanche13Pn1,725951
Daniel’s Harbour14R1,592702
Total 2002  522,752217,391

8.1.5   Bycatch by Gear Type, Sector and Directed Species

During the 1995-2002 period, 64% of wolffish bycatch was caught by longline, 19% by bottom otter trawl and 14% by gillnet (Table 11).

Approximately 52% (149,558 kg) of the wolffish bycatch was caught during the longline cod fishery, while the bottom otter trawl yellowtail fishery accounted for 11% (31,339 kg) and the bottom otter trawl Greenland halibut fishery landed 7% (20,021 kg). The gillnet cod fishery accounted for 7% (17,211 kg) of the total landings (Table 12).

Approximately 66% (192,715 kg) of the wolffish bycatch was caught by vessels less than 35 feet. Longline gear accounted for 83% (159,678 kg) of the catch in this sector.  The 100+ sector caught approximately 22% of the wolffish bycatch primarily using the bottom otter trawl, while the 35-64 feet fleet accounted for 12% using longline and gillnets (Table 13).


Table 11.  Wolffish Landings and Landed Value by Gear for the Period 1995-2002.

Gear TypeWolffish Landings (kg)Wolffish Value ($)
Yearly Average%Yearly Average%
Bottom Otter Trawl54,8031923,55017
Hand Line4,07412,1772
Danish Seine2,64711,3411
Midwater Trawl568<1166<1
Scottish Seine6<13<1
Shrimp Trawl5<12<1
Total289,125 162,182 

Table 12.  Wolffish Landings and Landed Value by Gear and Directed Species (1995-2002).

Gear TypeDirected FisheryWolffish Landings (kg)% of Total Landings
Longline (183,972 kg)Cod149,55852
Greenland halibut1,145<1
Bottom Otter Trawl (54,803 kg)Yellowtail31,43911
Greenland halibut20,0217
American Plaice519<1
Gillnet (41,480 kg)Cod19,2117
Greenland halibut7,9193
American Plaice3,2531
Winter Flounder624<1
Hand Line (4,074 kg)Cod2,5571

Table 13.  Wolffish Landings and Landed Value by Sector and Gear (1995-2002).

Vessel SectorGearWolffish Landings kg

% of Total


< 35 (192,715 kg)Longline159,67855
Hand Line3,8371
100+ (55,664 kg)Bottom Otter Trawl52,92321
Midwater Trawl568<1
35-64 (38,629 kg)Longline21,0197
Danish Seine2,6281
Bottom Otter Trawl1,312<1
65-99 (3,996 kg)Longline3,2701
Bottom Otter trawl567<1
Total 289,125 

8.1.6   Bycatch by Month

During 1995-2002, the majority (85%) of wolffish bycatch was caught during the period spanning May to September (Table 14).  During this timeframe, 40% of the bycatch was caught in Subdivision 3Ps, 18% in Subdivision 3Pn and 19% in Division 4R. The highest landings for Division 3O were reported during March, April, May and October. 

Table 14.  Wolffish Landings by Month (1995-2002).

MonthWolffish Landings (kg)
Average Landings% of Total

8.1.7   Profiles for Wolffish Bycatch > 5% by NAFO Division and Subdivisions (1995-2002)

Landing an economic statistics are listed by NAFO (Sub) Division (see Figure 1 and 6).


  • Total Landings: 114,223 kg (40%), Total Value: $56,764 (42%)
  • Statistical Areas: H (Placentia Bay), I (Fortune Bay) and J (South Coast)
  • Communities with Wolffish Landed Values > $500: Ramea ($9,480), Harbour Breton ($2,488), Francois ($1,219)
  • Directed Fisheries Catching Wolffish: cod, redfish, winter flounder, skate, greysole, white hake, halibut, lumpfish, American plaice, Greenland halibut, monkfish, pollock, crab, haddock, and whelk
  • Major Directed Fisheries:
    • Cod: landings 86%, value 63% (84% longline, 15% gillnet, 1% handline)
    • Unspecified: landings 11%, value 34% (57% longline, 34% gillnet, 9% handline)
    • Redfish: landings 1%, value 1% (58% gillnet, 39% bottom trawl, 2% midwater trawl)
  • Vessel Sector:  < 35 ft (83%), 35-64 (16%), 65-99 (< 1%), 100+ (< 1%)
  • Major Gear Types: longline (78%), gillnet (19%), handline (2%)
  • Primary Months: June (29%), July (28%), September (14%), May (10%),    August (9%), October (5%), November (4%).


  • Total Landings: 55,459 kg (19%), Total Value: $26,491 (20%)
  • Statistical Areas: K (St. George’s Bay), L (Port au Port ,Bay of Islands), M & N (Northern Peninsula) and O (Labrador)
  • Communities with Wolffish Landed Values > $500: Port aux Choix ($2,557), Three Rock Cove ($2,038), Codroy ($1,689), Daniel’s Harbour ($702), Heatherton ($538)
  • Directed Fisheries Catching Wolffish: cod, redfish, winter flounder, skate, greysole, halibut, lumpfish, American plaice, Greenland halibut, crab, haddock, and mackerel
  • Major Directed Fisheries:
    • Cod: landings 67%, value 52% (87% longline, 10% gillnet, 3% handline)
    • Unspecified: landings 20%, value 35% (75% longline, 21% gillnet, 2% handline)
    • American Plaice: landings 6%, value 5% (99% gillnet, 1% longline)
  • Vessel Sector: < 35 ft (83%), 35-64 (17%)
  • Major Gear Types: longline (75%), gillnet (18%), Danish seine (4%),     handline (2%)
  • Primary Months: July (36%), August (27%), September (16%), June (12%), May (5%), October (3%). 


  • Total Landings: 52,312 kg (18%), Total Value: $23,429 (17%)
  • Statistical Areas: J (South & Southwest Coast)
  • Communities with Wolffish Landed Values > $500:  Burgeo ($12,297), Lapoile  ($12,023), Channel – Port aux Basques ($9,847), Margaree ($2,100), Isle aux Morts ($1,363), Burnt Island ($1,333), Fox Roost ($1,203), Cape Ray ($959), Rose Blanche ($951), Petities ($624) 
  • Directed Fisheries Catching Wolffish: cod, redfish, winter flounder, skate, greysole, white hake, halibut, American plaice, Greenland halibut, haddock
  • Major Directed Fisheries:
    • Cod: landings 70%, value 55% (97% longline, 2% handline, 1% gillnet)
    • Unspecified: landings 29%, value 44% (87% longline, 12% gillnet, 1% handline)
  • Vessel Sector: < 35 (95%), 35-64 (5%)
  • Major Gear Types: longline (94%), gillnet (4%), handline (2%)
  • Primary Months: July (26%), August (24%), June (16%), September (12%),    May (11%), October (10%), November (1%).


  • Total Landings: 34,849 kg (12%), Total Value: $14,927 (12%)
  • Statistical Areas: F (eastern Avalon), H (Placentia Bay) and I (Fortune Bay)
  • Directed Fisheries Catching Wolffish: cod, redfish, skate, white hake, halibut, American plaice, Greenland halibut, and yellowtails
  • Major Directed Fisheries:
    • Yellowtail: landings 91%, value 91% (99% bottom trawl, 1% midwater trawl, < 1% gillnet)
    • Halibut: landings 7%, value 6% (100% longline) 
  • Vessel Sector: 35-64 ft (< 1%), 65-99 (6%), 100+ (94%)
  • Major Gear Types: bottom trawl (93%), longline (6%), midwater trawl (1%)
  • Primary Months: April (49%), May (17%), March (11%), October (7%), July (6%), February (3%).  


  • Total Landings: 16,522 kg (6%), Total Value: $5,937 (4%)
  • Statistical Areas: C (Bonavista Bay), D (Trinity Bay), E (Conception Bay), F (eastern Avalon) and G (St. Mary’s Bay)
  • Directed Fisheries Catching Wolffish: cod, winter flounder, American plaice, Greenland halibut,
  • Major Directed Fisheries:
    • Greenland halibut: landings 98%, value 96% (78% bottom trawl, 13% gillnet, < 1% longline)
  • Vessel Sector: < 35 ft (4%), 35-64 (10%), 100+ (86%)
  • Major Gear Types: bottom trawl (86%), gillnet (13%), pot (1%)
  • Primary Months: June (38%), July (35%), May (12%), August (5%), April (4%).

8.2   Quebec Region Landings and Value

Altough all three species of wolffish are found in the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence (Quebec Region), A. lupus is dominant. Scientific data from surveys, sentinel fisheries and the Fishery ObserverProgram were used to assess catches and species composition of wolffish.

Data on landings are collected by dockside monitors. However, those data do not differentiate the wolffish species. Statistical data currently use a single code and a single general description “wolffish”. Consequently, the economic overview only provides a general picture of wolffish captures, although observer and research survey data suggest that the majority of wolffish landed are A. lupus. It is possible to identify some significant variables to assess the profile of the fleets that catch wolffish and the relative significance of these species for the fisheries activities in the Quebec Region.

8.2.1   Socio-Economic Profile

Catches of wolffish are incidental in fisheries directing for other species and represented only 0.4% of the total groundfish landings in Quebec in 2002. In terms of value, this proportion is only 0.1%. However, wolffish landings had been increasing since 1995. In 2002, the preliminary data indicated landings of 22.3 t, for a total value of $8500. This trend can be explained by the increase in the fishing effort directed at Atlantic cod. Indeed, the fixed gear fleet (>50 feet) is responsible for most wolffish landings in Quebec. Between 1998 and 1999, Atlantic cod landings by this fleet increased in a significant way, thus causing an increase in wolffish landings.

The average price at landing (live weight) was $0.38/kg in 2002. Therefore, wolffish is not a species of great commercial value. However, prices at landing increased between 1995 and 2002. When comparing 2002 with 1995, a price increase of $0.15/kg is noted. The demand for wolffish on the Quebec market (food services, fish shops) explains this trend. The data on production indicate a rise in wolffish fillet production, and a rise in the value of this product between 1996 and 2002.

The groundfish fixed gear fleet (greater than 50 feet) captures the majority of wolffish in Quebec Region waters. In 2002, that fleet landed 72% of the total volume of wolffish landings in Quebec. In 2000 and 2001, this proportion reached nearly 90% .

For this fleet in 2002, wolffish comprised 1.6% of the total landed weight of groundfish, all species considered. The main species harvested by this fleet are Atlantic cod, Atlantic halibut and Greenland halibut.

Table 15. Total wolffish landings per fishing fleet,1999 to 2002.

Volume (kg) – value ($)

Trawlers – 50 to 64 feet44140054236452
Fixed gear < 35 feet (groundfish)2247244202594424
Fixed gear – 35 to 44 feet 11 inches (groundfish)879259451180468146293103
Fixed gear – 35 to 44 feet 11 inches (pelagic)    31  
Fixed gear – 45 to 49 feet 11 inches (groundfish)252748732153376712
Fixed gear – 50 feet and more (groundfish)3,02771710,6063,87120,7817,03615,9605,161
Crabbers of Lower North Shore, area 1327000  137
Crabbers of Lower North Shore, area 14      5,3422,949
Crabbers of Lower North Shore, area 14 - allocations      158
Crabbers of Lower North Shore, area 155000    
Crabbers of the Estuary, area 170041    
Crabbers, area 12A463133186682345468
Crabbers, area 12B7951155543231023623
Crabbers, area 12B - allocations      7327
Crabbers, area 12C - allocations      63
Crabbers, area 12E30211100164602610
Shrimpers – temporary allocations371793322171484510
Gaspesian lobster boats, area 203193931910
Gaspesian scallop vessels0014455    
Magdalen islands lobster vessels47100    
North Shore scallop vessels    659121  
Crabbers, area 17 – allocations    834410
Crabbers, area 16 – allocations      115
Crabbers, area 12 – allocations    1434018050
Out-of-Quebec vessels    8044  
Unclassified vessels      169

Source: Statistics Services, DFO, Quebec Region

Compilation: PEB, DFO, Quebec Region

8.2.2   Processing Sector

Processing sector data indicated an increase in the production of wolffish fillets between 1995 and 2001. The average value of fillet production increased between 1996 and 2001 from $3.28/kg to $5.01/kg. The demand for this type of product increased on the Quebec food service market (Quebec area, for example) and in fish shops. However, production decreased in 2002, in favour of the fresh and whole wolffish.

Table 16. Wolffish production in Quebec (kg).

Skinless fillets9123175592094262,36357
Skinless and boneless fillets086400371450  
Dressed, not headed1201340622750 648
Dressed, headed00002000  
Skinless fillets039269595691,8245,0441,751
Skinless and boneless fillets001480149453473474
Undefined form0040818800  
Slightly salted       1,238

Source: Statistics Services, DFO, Quebec Region

Note: the data of 2001 are preliminary

Table 17. Value of the wolffish production in Quebec($/kg).

Skinless fillets2.716.095.504.415.224.963,836.06
Skinless and boneless fillets 4.984.964.595.00   
Dressed, not headed1.10  0.560.55  0.67
Dressed, headed    1.32   
Whole 0.390.550.200.440.250.440.44
Skinless fillets,49
Skinless and boneless fillets  4.96
Undefined form  0.440.74    
Skinless fillets slightly salted       3.31

Source: Statistics Services, DFO, Quebec Region

Note: the data of 2001 are preliminary

8.3    Central and ArcticRegion Landings and Value

The majority of bycatch in the Central and Arctic (C&A) Region occurs in the Greenland halibut fishery. Wolffish bycatch is not landed in plants in the region, but may be landed in the Newfoundland and Labrador Region. In the past, the Newfoundland and Labrador Region had collected bycatch data for NAFO Divisions 0A and 0B delineating the Davis Strait. The majority of directed fisheries licensed in the C&A Region are landed in other regions, especially Newfoundland and Labrador.

The bycatch wolffish in NAFO Division 0A is small (00s of kg annually) and consists primarily of A. denticulatus that has no commercial value and is discarded and/or not reported to DFO.

It appears at this time that wolffish species are far less abundant in this area and bycatch commercial fisheries are very low.

8.4    Maritimes Region Landings and Value

All three wolffish species in Atlantic Canada are reported in DFO landing statistics as “catfish”. The intention is to distinguish landings by species, but Maritimes Region data up to 2002 was pooled, with the exception of a small volume of spotted wolffish data from 2000 and 2001.

8.4.1   Landings & Values

Discarding of wolffish is likely, but information on the amount of discards in unavailable in the Maritimes ZIF (zonal interface format) data.  The average yearly wolffish landings between 1988-2000 were 515.1 t, with a peak of 1,012 t in 1988. Landings fell to 132.5 t in 2001 and 168.1 t in 2002 (to 21 Nov 02) (Table 18). The average landed value over the 1988-2000 period was $195,979 (with unit price per kg ranging from $0.33 in 1988 to $0.54 in 2000).  Assuming an average price of $0.54 per kg for wolffish in 2001 and 2002 (processor prices were not reported for all landings), wolffish landings value were in the $100,000 per year range.

Table 18. Landed volume and landed value of wolffish by-catch in the Maritimes Region 1988-2002.

YearLandings (RW tonnes)Values (thousand $)Price ($ per kg)
19881,012.0$       337.1$         0.33
1989665.9$       228.4$         0.34
1990690.8$       210.6$         0.30
1991508.1$       173.6$         0.34
1992753.0$       275.2$         0.37
1993618.2$       212.3$         0.34
1994428.9$       173.4$         0.40
1995256.8$       108.4$         0.42
1996381.7$       165.6$         0.43
1997614.5$       280.0$         0.46
1998311.1$       142.7$         0.46
1999296.3$       154.6$         0.52
2000158.8$         85.8$         0.54
2001132.5$         71.5$         0.54
2002168.1$         90.8$         0.54
Average466.4$  196.01$         0.421

1Average value and price do not include 2001/2002 price and value estimates.

Landings are highly seasonal in the Maritimes Region, with a peak from May to August (Figure 8).

8.4.2   By-Catch by Main Landed Species

Wolffish is a common by-catch in the Maritimes Region groundfish fishery. With the exception of scallop – until 1995 – virtually all wolffish landings reported are the by-catch of groundfish fisheries. Figure 9 shows wolffish landings broken down by the main landings species (i.e., if 50-kg wolffish was landed as bycatch on a trip when haddock was the main species caught, the chart records the 50-kg in the ‘haddock’ category).  Wolffish was the main species landed for 25.0% of trips, on average, over the period 1986 to 2002. Cod was the main species landed on 31.0% and haddock on 17.9% of trips. All other species were the main species landed <5% on average.

8.4.3   By-Catch by NAFO Division

The highest wolffish landings were reported in NAFO Division 4X between 1986 and 2002 (Figure 10). Figure 11 shows the distribution of landings by NAFO division for 2001.  Landings within 4X were widely distributed (Figure 12). Figure 13 shows landings by NAFO unit within 4X.  The vast majority of landings, especially in recent years, have been caught using bottom trawls (67.9% on average between 1986 and 2002) and longlines (25.2% on average between 1986 and 2002) (Figure 14).  

8.4.4   Comparing Landed Values

The landed value of wolffish by-catches are insignificant in comparison to the values of the directed fisheries from which they are derived (Table 19).

Table 19. Summary of landed value by major species in the Maritimes Region 1988-2000.

SpeciesAll GroundfishAll PelagicsAll InvertebratesWolffish (% Total)
1988 $         117,163,000 $         39,291,800 $         202,588,647 $         337,1150.09%
1989 $         117,076,000 $         36,410,400 $         216,668,000 $         228,4100.06%
1990 $         134,157,000 $         36,174,800 $         214,877,000 $         210,6310.05%
1991 $         175,389,000 $         32,996,100 $         219,870,000 $         173,5540.04%
1992 $         163,551,000 $         39,911,800 $         240,412,000 $         275,1560.06%
1993 $         111,393,000 $         42,939,600 $         256,781,000 $         212,3040.05%
1994 $            87,087,600 $         38,622,100 $         309,507,000 $         173,4330.04%
1995 $            73,596,300 $         45,550,500 $         298,891,000 $         108,3970.03%
1996 $            70,293,600 $         39,897,900 $         277,788,000 $         165,5870.04%
1997 $            84,081,600 $         41,183,200 $         295,744,000 $         280,0130.07%
1998 $            86,957,800 $         36,143,700 $         325,139,000 $         142,6560.03%
1999 $            78,523,900 $         34,103,400 $         413,079,000 $         154,6190.03%
2000 $            75,498,200 $         35,540,400 $         478,123,000 $           85,8460.01%

8.5   Gulf Region Landings and Value

Mandatory reporting requirements are in place for all landings. There are presently no reported discards of wolffish in the Gulf Region.

The average yearly wolffish landings between 1995-2001 were very small (i.e. 12.6 t). The total landed value over the same period was $3,803 with unit price per kg ranging from $0.20 in 1996 to $0.52 in 1999.

[1]In DFO-NL Region the “catfish” is synonymous with and includes the three species of wolffish that inhabit waters surrounding Newfoundland and Labrador.  In this report, “wolffish” will be used instead of “catfish”.