Know your seafood: Atlantic Wolffish


With Halloween just around the corner and Turner’s newly established roots in spooky Salem, MA, it seemed the right time a year to feature a post on this ghoulish-looking fish:

wolf fish 1

This striking-blue and rather creepy/mean looking creature is called an Atlantic wolffish and lives right here off our local shores. Altantic wolffish (Anarhichas lupus), also known as the seawolf, Atlantic catfish, or ocean catfish, are at their highest abundances in the Gulf-of-maine/ Georges Bank regions at depths of 80-100 meters, but can also be found at depths as shallow as 40 meters. They prefer bottoms with diverse textures (rocks, etc.) as they make their homes in dark crevasses and caves. As those giant teeth suggest, they are capable of eating a variety of other sea creatures– even including sharp sea urchins in one giant bite! Wolffish also help to control local green crab populations, which can grow out of control without pressure from predators. Behind the wolffish’s front row of protruding teeth, there are three more rows of razor sharp smaller shredding teeth.

Aside from their distinct color, scary teeth and unusual eel-like, undulating body, this unique fish is also known for its resilience in bone-chilling water temperatures, which is made possible by a natural anti-freeze like substance that circulates through its body. This natural antifreeze keeps their circulation going in cold water, allowing the fish to survive in otherwise harsh ocean environments. Wolffish also grow to giant sizes, with the largest on record just under 5 feet long!

Wolffish are mostly solitary, sedentary creatures who spend most of their time hanging out in the nooks and crannys of the rocky bottoms of both sides of the north Atlantic.  the exception is furing mating time, when instead of the female depositing her eggs in the open ocean, the male fish joins her in her cave.  After fertilization, male wolffish stays with the nest and protects the eggs for as long as four months, until the brood is strong enough to gain independence. Check out these two wolffish sharing a happy home:

Mission Atlantic marine life - WWE

The north Atlantic wolffish is currently a species for consideration under the Endagered Species Act in local waters but is harvested in our neighboring sustainable Icelandic fishery where the population is more robust. This shift in distribution mirrors a trend that has been observed with many fish stocks that have traditionally been fished off New England as they move northward following shifting ocean temperatures.

Check back later this week for more info on wolffish including info on its culinary value.