About the Species
According to the 2017 operational assessment, Atlantic wolffish is overfished and overfishing is not occurring.
- Atlantic wolffish have a tapered body shape with a large rounded head and a slender tail.
- Wolffish have multiple rows of teeth, some of which project prominently from their mouth.
- Adult wolffish are blueish-gray in color, and the underside of their body is typically lighter than the top side.
- Adult wolffish have a series of dark vertical patches running along the length of their body.
- Wolffish inhabit complex, rocky habitats.
- Wolffish are relatively sedentary and they typically live alone, except during spawning season when male and female wolffish form bonded pairs.
- Wolffish typically begin to reproduce by the time they reach ages 5 to 6.
- Peak spawning season for Atlantic wolffish is September to October.
- Wolffish lay their eggs in masses, which the males guard for approximately 3 to 9 months until they hatch.
- Adult wolffish primarily feed on bottom-dwelling invertebrates, such as scallops, hermit crabs, Jonah crabs, and sea urchins.
Where They Live
- Atlantic wolffish are found along the Atlantic Coast of North America from Labrador to Great South Channel and Georges Bank.
- NOAA Fisheries manages a single stock of Atlantic wolffish in U.S. waters.
- Atlantic wolffish is a zero-possession species, meaning vessels holding a federal groundfish permit may not fish for, possess, or land Atlantic wolffish.
- NOAA Fisheries and the New England Fishery Management Council manage the fishery.
- Wolffish, along with other groundfish in New England waters, are managed under the Northeast Multispecies Fishery Management Plan, which includes:
- Permitting requirements for commercial vessels.
- Separate management measures for recreational vessels.
- Time/area closures to protect spawning fish and habitat.
- Minimum fish sizes to prevent harvest of juvenile fish.
- Annual catch limits, based on best available science.
- An optional sector (catch share) program can be used for cod and other groundfish species. The sector program allows fishermen to form harvesting cooperatives and work together to decide when, where, and how they harvest fish.
Recreational Fishing Regulations
Commercial Fishing Regulations
Subsistence Fishing Regulations
Atlantic wolffish is managed under the Northeast Multispecies (Groundfish) Fishery Management Plan along with 12 other species of groundfish. Collectively, these 13 species are referred to as the Northeast multispecies complex.