Atlantic Wolffish | Oceana Canada

Canadian Marine Life Encyclopedia

Atlantic Wolffish

Anarhichus lupus

Also known as

Striped wolffish, seawolf, seacat, ocean catfish

Distribution

Cold temperate to subpolar north Atlantic Ocean

Écosystèmes/habitats

Rocky reefs and hard bottoms

Feeding Habits

Aggressive predator

Conservation Status

Special concern/data deficient

Taxonomie

Order Cottiformes (sculpins & relatives); Family Anarhichadidae (wolffishes)

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With even just a brief glance, you can quickly figure out how the Atlantic wolffish was named. their large, canine-like teeth protrude from their mouths, giving them a wolf-like scowl. Behind these visible primary canine teeth are a cluster of five or six smaller canines, as well as three sets of crushing teeth on the roof of their mouths, used to grindhard-shelled prey. In spite of their slightly ferocious appearance and large teeth, Atlantic wolffish are not aggressive. They feed on slow-moving or sedentary prey such as sea urchins, crabs, molluscs and large snails. Atlantic wolffish are also incredibly well-adapted for cold water conditions, able to survive in water below 0°C, thanks to high concentrations of an antifreeze compound in their blood.

There are no fisheries targeting Atlantic wolffish in Canada, however they are commonly caught as bycatch (the catch of non-targeted species) in commercial bottom-trawl and trap fisheries. They were caught in relatively high numbers in the 1970s, but catches have drastically declined since the late 1980s and 1990s, corresponding with many of the groundfish closures during this time in Atlantic Canada. Bottom contacting fishing gears, like bottom-trawls and dredges, are also thought to destroy habitat that is important for wolffish.