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Northern Wolf Fish

Northern Wolf Fish



The Northern Wolf Fish

Biological Information

The scientific name of the Northern Wolffish is Anarhichas denticulatus. Also referred to as the Blue-headed Catfish, Arctic Wolffish or the Rock Turbot in general, this fish is mainly found in the North Atlantic Ocean, in distinct parts between Russia and the Scotian Shelf. This fish is predominantly found near the Davis Strait and their limit extends up to the Baffin Bay in the northern Arctic belt. Sometimes their presence has also been recorded around the Prince Patrick Island in the far western zone of the Arctic. It can also be spotted in and around the north-eastern part of Newfoundland and Labrador Shelf in Canada.
The Northern Wolffish is mainly found in waters with the temperature below 5 degrees. It spends most of its time swimming in the ocean waters and feeds on the other smaller creatures which happen to pass by it in the open waters. Hence the Northern Wolffish is a pelagic fish. It usually dwells at depths of 400 to 1200 meters below the sea level, mostly below 150 meters. Sometimes young Wolf Fish can also be found in the upper regions of the water column, having risen in search of the surface feeders and other small open water creatures that orient more toward the surface.

Although the fishes are found to swim around continuously in the ocean, the ones that do this are all juveniles of the species. The Wolf Fish are rather sedentary and prefer not to move about like the younger ones. They live at the greater depths of the ocean and are non-migratory as well. The female Wolffish lays about 30000 eggs every year during summer, the eggs are quite large in size and are deposited mainly on rocky underwater terrain or shelves. The adult male Wolf Fish looks after the eggs till they hatch into fry. It is believed that the Northern Wolffish prefers living on rocky structure so hence their other name, Rock Turbot. However it has been found that the fishes also dwell in silt or coarsely sandy bottoms.
The life span of this fish is around 12 years and the young ones attain maturity at an early age of 4 or 5 years after which they spend most of their time peacefully settled at a certain depth, confined to a fairly sedentary aquatic life.

The Northern Wolffish is carnivorous and feeds on other smaller creatures of the ocean like sea urchins, crabs, starfishes, brittle stars.  At greater depths they can be found eating jellyfish or smaller fish that move about in the open waters of the deep sea. Their razor-sharp teeth help them to tear their prey’s flesh before ingesting it. The sharp teeth of the Northern Wolffish protect it from its natural predators, thus giving it a rather dominant persona and reputation in the ocean world.

The Northern Wolffish is rather large in size with a large head and a set of sharp pointed teeth at the apical region of the mouth. In fact, it has the largest head in its category. The shape and size of the mouth of the Northern Wolffish helps it to capture smaller prey in the dark depths of the ocean. It often shows a variation on colour, from a darker shade of grey to dark brown, or even a shade of light violet on its body. The Northern Wolf Fish is very much distinguishable for its peculiar size and colour. It can grow up to a size of about 57 inches in length and can weigh as much as 44 pounds.

Sport Fishing

Sport fishing is one of the most common recreational activities in the world. In certain places, sport fishing is an age-old culture and the people celebrate this in the form of a festival by organising competitions and the like. As a result of this, species of fishes fall prey to this fun but dangerous game and suffer death. Their population decline catastrophically and they soon become threatened or endangered and thereafter face extinction.

Over the years, sport fishing has been a widely accepted game. But in recent years, Northern Wolffish has shown a sudden decrease in population and growth, the prime suspect behind this being the above mentioned sport. Sport fishing of Northern Wolffish is carried out in extensive parts of the world, including places like Argentina, Canada and others situated along the Arctic belt, where these fishes are mostly found.

The fearsome nature and appearance of the Northern Wolffish helps it to get away from harmful predators and so there is absolutely no chance of it being eaten up by larger marine animals. Fishing industries hardly catch these fishes since they have jelly like watery flesh which is not feasible for marketing as food.

Recent researches have revealed that a major reason behind their gradual decline is sport fishing. Sport fishing, which is widely prevalent in different parts of the modern world, has been posing serious threats to the marine life, which includes the population of Northern Wolffish as well.

Commercial Fishing

Commercial fishing is another important aspect of economy of the entire world. Today, a large part of the human civilisation lives on commercial fishing, i.e. fishing for food and industrial purposes. Fish is consumed worldwide and today, this has developed into an industry, the fishing industry. Different kinds of fishes are marketed for commercial purposes all over the world.

However, the Northern Wolffish is not a commercially feasible food product, the main reason behind this being that the flesh of this fish is somewhat watery and is not of a very good quality, thereby ruling out chances of it being eaten by human beings. Commercial fishing is carried out with fishes which have excellent taste and can be very profitable commercially. Another reason for the non-commercial state of the Northern Wolffish is that it is available in limited parts of the world and only a few people are acquainted with this fish, leave apart having it as food. The Northern Wolffish lives at a greater depth in comparison to the other commercially profitable fishes and marketing this fish would require a lot of expenditure and maintenance.

The Northern Wolffish is thus not threatened by the fishing industries and is only confined to a limited number of people which includes some fishermen and sport fishers living around the Arctic coasts.

Conservation Status of Northern Wolffish

The Northern Wolffish has currently acquired the status of being ‘threatened’. Certain sport fishers and local fishermen have been known to carry out their activities which have led to this situation. Although the Northern Wolffish is not commercially feasible, sport fishing can always be carried out with this fish and this is the case in different parts of the world, as a result of which their population has shown rapid decline. Other underwater disturbances like trawling and oil spilling, pollution may also be responsible for the sudden decrease in their number.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, the population of the Northern Wolffish had shown this kind of decline just because of some profit seeking fishermen who preferred to catch the fishes and sell them in local markets at high prices. In the 1990s, the fish showed serious decline and got enlisted in the list of threatened species according to the decision of the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. In June 2004, the species also got enlisted under the Federal Species at Risk Act (SARA). Thereafter it was aided with special protection through the Federal Fisheries Act.

In Canada, the Northern Wolffish is strictly under the protection and surveillance of the Species at Risk Act (SARA) and a special team has been set up for the recovery of the species. This team works in a synchronised manner towards finding the potential threats to the species, gathering information about the historic background behind their origin, live release of the Northern Wolffish in marine ecosystems, etc.

They aim at getting the population of this fish back to normal and arranging for a united management of the species in water. They have jointly developed a strategic plan towards their goal and they also work towards making the common people aware about the existence of such a species and their current status in the world. Public education can prove to be a great effort as far as conserving the species is concerned. As more and more people become aware of the status of the Northern Wolffish, they will tend to work towards it and public contribution can always bring about a difference. This is what the joint committee in Canada believe and they are working towards success.

It is expected from each and every citizen of Canada and the similar cities to lend a helping hand towards the conservation of this seriously threatened species. In places where the Northern Wolffish is found, people should be more careful to prevent any unwanted damage to the ocean water. They should avoid catching this fish at all costs and incite others not to do so. If possible, schools and other educational institutions should educate the students about the current status of this species and instil in their minds thought about the degrading natural condition. Along with the recovery team specially set up for this purpose, the common people should be equally active in protecting nature’s possessions and save the declining population of the Northern Wolffish.

Active public interest in the conservation can be extremely helpful along with the technical methods carried out by the recovery team in this project. Several organizations conduct programs for the conservation of a particular natural species, one of them being the Habitat Stewardship Program for Species at Risk (HSP), in which people must take part in order to restore the loss that has been taking place in nature over the years.