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Species at risk:
Exemplary practices
wolffish - Andrew J. Martinez Andrew J. Martinez

Since the Species at Risk Act came into force, fish harvesters have had to record in a logbook any accidental catches of species at risk, particularly spotted wolffish and northern wolffish. Information on these species is very useful and provides biologists responsible for monitoring the evolution of various species with data they need.  

During the last fishing season, a project to raise the awareness of skippers and assistant fishers was carried out in collaboration with the firm, Biorex. The project revealed that a growing number of Gaspé Peninsula fishers use the appropriate technique to handle wolffish and return them to the water.

Not only do Gaspé Peninsula fishers fulfil their legal obligation to provide information about species at risk, their collaboration is valuable and increasingly exemplary. We would like to draw particular attention to the contribution of Paul René Caron, Jean Savage and Irvin Jones who regularly submit properly completed logbooks.

The wolffish at a glance

Wolffish – spotted wolffish, northern wolffish and Atlantic wolffish – are long-lived, solitary fish that grow very slowly. They reach maturity at around 7 to 10 years of age.

They feed primarily on echinoderms like sea stars, but also on crustaceans, molluscs and other fish. Spawning takes place in summer when the wolfish deposit clumps of large eggs directly on the seabed.

Although all three wolffish species present in the Gulf of St. Lawrence appear in the species at risk registry produced pursuant to the Species at Risk Act, the status of the spotted wolffish and northern wolffish is more serious (they are considered threatened). In less than 20 years, their numbers have declined by more than 90 percent. The most likely threats include death due to accidental by-catch and habitat modification as a result of bottom trawling.

Information on species at risk sent in by fishers and observers, particularly via logbooks, helps improve our knowledge.

Chantale Thiboutot
Fisheries and Aquaculture Management