Skip booklet index and go to page content

COSEWIC assessment and status report on the Atlantic wolffish Anarhichas lupus in Canada


Global Range

Adapted to a broad range of depth and temperature, the Atlantic wolffish is widely distributed on both sides of the North Atlantic.  In the eastern North Atlantic it is found from Iceland, the Faeroes, Spitzbergen, the White Sea, and Murman coast, south to the British Isles and the western coast of France.  In the western North Atlantic, it is found off west Greenland and southern Labrador, in the Strait of Belle Isle and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, off the east and west coasts of Newfoundland and on the Grand Banks.  Its most southerly range extends from the Scotian Shelf to the Gulf of Maine with occasional strays off New Jersey (Scott and Scott, 1988).  Thus the Atlantic wolffish is basically a coldwater fish, and Mahon et al. (1998) have identified it as a characteristic member of the "northern, cold, deep, aggregated" demersal fish assemblage that occurs on the continental shelves off northeastern Newfoundland and southern Labrador.

The Atlantic wolffish appears in the important regional ichthyofaunal compendia of the North Atlantic: “The Fishes of the British Isles and North West Europe” by Wheeler, 1969, pp. 449-452; “Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean” by Whitehead et al., 1986 as Clofnam species 165.1.1 on p. 1115; “Atlantic Fishes of Canada” by Scott and Scott, 1988, pp. 432-434; and “Fishes of the Gulf of Maine” by Bigelow and Schroeder, 1953, pp.  503-507.  These accounts each include keys, an illustration, distribution map and information on biology and relation to man as well as references.



The ECNASAP (East Coast of North America Strategic Assessment Project) on-line Groundfish Atlas ( summarizes twenty years of distributional data from scientific research surveys conducted in the western North Atlantic in the map ATLWOL, reproduced here as Figure 2.  ECNASAP is a joint US/Canada data synthesis and mapping project concerned with living marine resources and their habitats.  The map shows that the distribution of Atlantic wolffish in the western Atlantic is predominately Canadian.  Within that area, it is most prevalent and abundant on the deep shelf off northeastern Newfoundland and Labrador.