Cusk

Brosme brosme

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

A slow-moving and sedentary fish, the Cusk has the following distinct features:

  • an elongated body with single dorsal and anal fins;
  • a large head and a wide mouth with several rows of sharp teeth line the fish's jaws; and
  • a single barbel—or whisker—adorns the lower jaw.

Body colouring varies from reddish- to greenish-brown shading to cream or white on the belly. Essentially northern, deep-water fish, Cusk are relatively slow-growing and late-maturing. Males reach sexual maturity at around five years of age; females at seven. Spawning usually occurs in May to August on the Scotian Shelf, but may be as early as April in the Gulf of Maine. Females are thought to lay up to 100,000 eggs at a time.

Little is known about the diet of Cusk in Canadian waters. However, studies have shown that the fish favour marine invertebrates, such as crab, shrimp and krill, and occasionally other fish.

Habitat

In Canada, Cusk are found primarily in the Gulf of Maine and on the southeastern edge of the Scotian Shelf. They are found through a broad depth range but areas of high abundance are generally more than 200 metres deep, with some found at depths of over 600 metres. Cusk inhabit areas with a hard, rocky sea floor. They are occasionally found over gravel and mud, but rarely over sand.

Threats

According to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC), Cusk populations in the Gulf of Maine and the southeastern Scotian Shelf have declined by 85 percent since 1970. Although, there are currently no directed commercial fisheries for Cusk in Canadian waters, fishing mortality is still a threat to the species. Cusk is caught as bycatch mainly by longline fisheries for other groundfish such as haddock and halibut, and in the lobster trap fishery.

Further Information

The Cusk was designated as threatened by COSEWIC in 2003, but was not listed under Species at Risk Act (SARA). COSEWIC re-examined and designated Cusk as endangered in 2012.

DFO has implemented a cap of 638 tonnes on the bycatch of Cusk that can be landed by commercial groundfish fisheries.

The restrictions in groundfish fisheries are monitored by DFO Conservation and Protection, at-sea observers, and independent dockside monitors who verify the weights by species of fish when vessels offload their catches.

DFO is currently tracking the status of cusk through annual reviews of information collected during surveys. DFO is also working with the fishing industry to develop and implement a conservation strategy.

For more information, visit the SARA registry.

Cusk

Cusk

Photo credit: Jeffrey C. Domm

Scientific name: Brosme brosme
SARA Status: No Status
COSEWIC Status: Endangered
Region: Nova Scotia

Did You Know?

Cusk can be distinguished from other members of the cod family by their single dorsal and anal fins. The fish is also sometimes called the tusk or torsk.

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