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Research Document - 2011/122

A pre-COSEWIC assessment of three species of Wolffish (Anarhichas denticulatus, A. minor, and A. lupus) in Canadian waters of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean

By M.R. Simpson, L.G.S. Mello, C.M. Miri, and M. Treble


This paper presents the most recent information on the biology, trends in abundance and distribution, for the assessment of Anarhichas denticulatus (Northern Wolffish), A. minor (spotted Wolffish), and A. lupus (Atlantic Wolffish) in Canadian waters of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. The primary purpose of this paper is to provide this information to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) for use in its evaluation of risk of extinction for each of these species; focussing on Canadian waters of the Northwest Atlantic Ocean. The results of this study indicate that the centre of distribution for all three Wolffish species is located in Newfoundland and Labrador waters, with the most persistent locations of high concentrations in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean found in areas adjacent to the northern Grand Bank (Northern Wolffish and spotted Wolffish) and southern Grand Bank (Atlantic Wolffish); the three species are distributed from shallow (25 m) to deep waters (>1400 m) but are temperature seekers, tending to occupy the warmest available waters; considerable declines in indices of relative abundance and distribution occurred through the 1980s and early 1990s, but signs of recovery have been detected for all three species in the last decade. Recent increase in abundance indices for Atlantic Wolffish have also been detected in other geographic areas such as in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Scotian Shelf and West Greenland.

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