Scientific Name: Anarhichas lupus
Taxonomy Group: Fishes
Range: Arctic Ocean, Atlantic Ocean
Last COSEWIC Assessment: November 2012
Last COSEWIC Designation: Special Concern
SARA Status: Schedule 1, Special Concern
Image of Atlantic Wolffish
The Atlantic Wolffish is a large bottom-dwelling predatory marine fish. Adults can weigh almost 20 kilograms and reach a length of 150 centimeters. The Atlantic Wolffish has a heavy head, a blunt snout, its profile is rounded, and it lacks pelvic fins. Like other wolffish, it has large canine-like teeth in the front of its jaws with flattened, grinding teeth in behind. The colour of Atlantic Wolffish varies with its surroundings, from slate blue to dull olive green to purplish brown. Individuals of this species also bare nine to thirteen darkly coloured transverse bars on their bodies.
Distribution and Population
The species is widely distributed across the North Atlantic. On the western side of the North Atlantic, it occurs off the coast of west Greenland and southern Labrador, in the Strait of Belle Isle and the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It is also found off the east and west coasts of Newfoundland and on the Grand Banks. On the eastern side of the North Atlantic, it occurs from Iceland, the Faeroes, Spitzbergen, the White Sea, and Murman coast, south to the British Isles and the western coast of France. In the southern edge of its range, it is found from the Scotian shelf to the Gulf of Maine with occasional fish sighted off New Jersey. The centre of its western Atlantic distribution is off the coast of northeast Newfoundland in Canada. Available data indicate that the number of Atlantic Wolffish in Canadian waters has declined by 87% from the late 1970’s to the mid 1990’s. The number of locations where the species occurs has declined and the range where the species is abundant may be shrinking. Even though it has declined significantly, it is thought to be very widespread and to still exist in relatively large numbers.
The Atlantic Wolffish primarily inhabits the cold, deep waters of the continental shelf. It prefers rocky or hard clay bottoms and uses areas with sandy or muddy bottoms only occasionally.
The Atlantic Wolffish’ spawning times and habits vary greatly across its range. Off the east coast of Newfoundland, the larger (> 50 cm in length) and sexually mature fish are thought to move inshore to shallow waters in spring and spawn in September. The smaller, juvenile fish remain in deeper water. Egg hatching occurs by mid-December. The eggs are among the largest of any fish, reaching six millimeters in diameter. Eggs are laid in a large mass at the bottom and are protected by the males. Upon hatching, larvae stay close to the hatching site. Off eastern Newfoundland, fish of this species reach maturity when they are around eight to ten years of age and are between 52 and 60 centimeters in length. Like larvae, adult Atlantic Wolffish are relatively sedentary. The Atlantic Wolffish diet is mainly composed of hard-shelled benthic invertebrates such as echinoderms, molluscs and crustaceans; it also eats small amounts of other fish.
There are no data available on the direct causes of the declines in the Atlantic. The Atlantic Wolffish figures in commercial catches, at one time as a target species but now only as a by-catch (accidental capture of the species). Even this latter type of removal can have a negative impact on the wolffish populations. In addition, bottom trawling is likely detrimental to the species because it destroys and disrupts habitat.
Federal ProtectionMore information about SARA, including how it protects individual species, is available in the Species at Risk Act: A Guide.
Provincial and Territorial Protection
PLEASE NOTE: Not all COSEWIC reports are currently available on the SARA Public Registry. Most of the reports not yet available are status reports for species assessed by COSEWIC prior to May 2002. Other COSEWIC reports not yet available may include those species assessed as Extinct, Data Deficient or Not at Risk. In the meantime, they are available on request from the COSEWIC Secretariat.
7 record(s) found.
- Report on the Progress of Recovery Strategy Implementation (1 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Status Reports (1 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Assessments (1 record(s) found.)
- Response Statements (1 record(s) found.)
- Recovery Strategies (1 record(s) found.)
- Management Plans (1 record(s) found.)
- COSEWIC Annual Reports (1 record(s) found.)
Report on the Progress of Recovery Strategy Implementation
Report on the Progress of Implementation of the Recovery Strategy for Northern Wolffish (Anarhichas denticulatus) and Spotted Wolffish (Anarhichas minor), and Management Plan for Atlantic Wolffish (Anarhichas lupus) in Canada for the Period 2008-2013 (2013)The Recovery Strategy for Northern Wolffish (Anarhichas denticulatus), Spotted Wolffish (A. minor), and Management Plan for Atlantic Wolffish (A. lupus) in Canada (Kulka et al. 2007) (hereafter referred to as the Recovery Strategy) was posted on the Species at Risk Public Registry in 2008. The following document fulfills Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s (DFO) commitment to report every five years on the progress of Recovery Strategy implementation and covers the period February 2008 - February 2013.
COSEWIC Status Reports
COSEWIC Annual Reports
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