Spotted Wolffish

Anarhichas minor

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 Spotted Wolffish (Anarhichas minor) is a large marine fish from a family that was given the name “Wolffish” because of their powerful canine-like teeth. It is one of three wolffish species found in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. Its head is large (relative to the body) with a large mouth and rounded snout, small eyes and a long, stout body with large pectoral fins, but no pelvic fins. Its colour is variable from pale olive to deep brown and its upper body is speckled with irregular blackish-brownish spots. The Spotted Wolffish can grow to 180 cm in length.

Habitat

The Spotted Wolffish is widely distributed on both sides of the North Atlantic and in the Arctic. In the northeastern Atlantic, it occurs from Greenland and Iceland to the coast of Norway. In the northwest Atlantic, it is found from Davis Strait to the Gulf of Maine. In Canadian waters, the Spotted Wolffish occurs in Davis Strait, off Baffin Island, in the Labrador Sea, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, off the east coast of Newfoundland, on the Grand Banks, and on the Scotian Shelf. The central part of its range is located on the Labrador Shelf and off northeastern Newfoundland. It prefers colder water temperatures between –1 and +3.5˚C and is usually found at depths between 200 and 750 m. Its diet consists mainly of shrimp, brittlestars (a form of statrfish), sea urchins, and crabs.

Map displaying the approximate distribution of the Spotted Wolffish (adapted from the 2012 Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) assessment on the Spotted Wolffish Anarhichas minor in Canada).

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

Map displaying the distribution of the Spotted Wolffish. The extent of the map is 40 to 70 degrees North latitude. Spotted Wolffish are found in the waters off of Nova Scotia, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, around the island of Newfoundland, and 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 Spotted Wolffish (Anarhichas minor) in Canada.

Threats

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

Further Information

The Spotted Wolffish is listed as Threatened under the Species at Risk Act. A Recovery Strategy was published for Spotted Wolffish in 2008, with the main goal being to increase population levels and distribution of Spotted Wolffish such that long-term viability of the population is achieved. Some means to accomplish this are: to improve the knowledge of Spotted 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 Public Registry at www.sararegistry.gc.ca.

Spotted Wolffish

Illustration of a redfish

Illustration of a Spotted Wolffish viewed from the side. The Spotted Wolffish is greyish brown in colour, with several dark spots on its body. It has prominent, canine-like teeth in the front of the jaws and an elongated body. It also has a large head, a rounded snout, and the fin along the back (the dorsal fin) extends from the head all the way to the tail fin. 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 minor
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?

Strong, crushing teeth and powerful jaws allow Spotted Wolffish to eat shrimp, brittlestars, sea urchins, crabs, and other hard-shelled bottom-dwelling organisms. Their canine-like teeth led to the name “wolffish”; although they are also often called “catfish”.

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