Newfoundland Wildlife - Lives in the Water

American Eel (Anguilla rostrata)
This eel wasn't quite quick enough….

American eels are found in the freshwater streams, rivers, lakes, brackish coastal waters and the Atlantic Ocean of eastern North America from southern Greenland to the Gulf of Mexico and northern South America. They are abundant in the Maritime provinces, Newfoundland and the St. Lawrence River drainage in Quebec and are the only member of the freshwater eel family found in North America.

Historically, in Canada, the most successful eel fisheries have occurred along the St. Lawrence River from Trois-Rivières to Rivière-du-Loup, where the catch consists mainly of the more valuable silver eel. Smaller, but still important, fisheries which harvest mostly yellow eels exist in the Bay of Quinte region of Lake Ontario, in the Saint John River, and along the northeast shore of New Brunswick, on Prince Edward Island and along the southern coast of mainland Nova Scotia, and on Cape Breton Island. Newfoundland has a minor fishery.


Arctic Char (Salvelinus alpinus)
Arctic Char

Resident Arctic charr, are widespread throughout the island of Newfoundland. This study examines aspects of the biology and spatial and temporal distributions of the charr of Gander Lake, the third largest in Newfoundland (surface area = 11 320 ha, maximum depth = 288 m, mean depth = 105.4 m). The deepest part of the lake is approximately 258 m below sea level. The lake is well oxygenated from the surface to the bottom during all seasons.

Sampling was conducted with Lundgren multiple-mesh experimental gillnets and baited hooks. There appears to be two morphs present, based on colour (dark and pale) and certain meristic characteristics. Dark charr were caught mainly in benthic nets (at depths from I to 100 m inclusive) with only a few pelagic captures. Pale charr were caught only in benthic nets at depths between 20 and 100 m inclusive. The maximum depth sampled was 196m, but there was no catch.

There was a tendency for dark charr to be found in deeper, cooler water as the upper water column and inshore areas warmed during summer. There was no apparent trend in size of charr with depth sampled. Dark and pale charr both fed on benthic macroinvertebrates; sticklebacks were consumed only by dark charr and the importance of this prey item increased with size of predator.

Zooplankton and surface food were not utilised by Gander Lake charr. Results of the study are compared with findings reported for other water bodies in Newfoundland and Labrador, North America, and Europe, particularly Loch Ness which has similarities in morphometry and trophic status to Gander Lake.


Atlantic Catfish (Wolffish) (Anarhichas lupus)
Atlantic Catfish

They have been caught, widespread, on the Newfoundland Banks in water as cold as -1°C (30°F).

The wolffish looks like a big blenny in its general make-up, except that its dorsal fin spines are flexible at their tips instead of stiff; that it has no ventral fins; and that its mouth is armed with a set of teeth more formidable than those of any other Gulf fishes, and for some of the sharks. There is a row of about 6 very large, stout, conical canine tusks with a cluster of five or six smaller canines behind them in the upper jaw; and the roof of the mouth back of the latter is armed with three series of crushing teeth. The central series of these consists of a double row of about 4 pairs of large rounded molars that are united into a solid plate; each of the outer series consists of two alternating rows of blunt conical teeth.

In the common wolffish the central series, which is the longest of the three, originates a very little in advance of the outer series, and it extends rearward noticeably farther. The lower jaw has 4 to 6 large tusks in front, behind which are two longitudinal diverging rows of rounded molars. And the throat also is armed with small scattered teeth. The great projecting tusks, rounded nose, and small eyes give the wolf a singularly savage aspect.


Atlantic Salmon (Salmo salar)
A favourite sports fish

Atlantic salmon leave Maine rivers in the spring and reach Newfoundland and Labrador by mid-summer. They spend their first winter at sea south of Greenland.

After the first winter at sea, a small percentage return to Maine while the majority spend a second year at sea, feeding off the southwest or, to a much lesser extent, the southeast coast of Greenland. Some Maine salmon are also found in waters along the Labrador coast.

After a second winter in the Labrador Sea, most Maine salmon return to rivers in Maine, with a small number returning the following year as what is referred to as three sea winter fish.


Basking Shark: (Cetorhinus maximus)

8 meters; 3.5 tons

Into the spring biological explosion of marine life in Newfoundland and Labrador waters come basking sharks), which are not mammals, but fish. The shark is so large that it is often mistaken for whales. The tip of its snout may be seen above water while swimming with its mouth open filtering plankton (red bait). Its skin is rough and grey and it has a 1 meter-large triangular fin. Although the basking shark is the second largest fish in the world (whale shark is largest), it is harmless to humans. This common shark has been seen often from the waterways of Signal Hill and on the ferry to St. Pierre and Miquelon.

If a fisherman sells part of a basking shark that was caught in his gear, he can get some money to help pay for his [gear] damage. The value of basking sharks is due to their huge livers, which are sold locally and made into oil. The oil is used on machinery and in making cosmetics, like mascara for eyelashes. One basking shark may have 1,000 kilograms of liver in its belly.

The many fins of the shark are also sold and dried. Then they are shipped to China and Hong Kong, and used in shark fin soup. Researchers are working to find uses for the hides, flesh, stomach contents and cartilage of this gigantic shark. Perhaps markets for these shark parts will develop in the future. If fishermen could sell most of the shark locally they could recover more than the cost of their damaged gear.


Bearded Seal (Erignathus Barbatus)
I once tried a goatee but the missus seal didn't like it

Except for the grey and harbour seals, seals in Newfoundland and Labrador migrate from Arctic waters on southward moving pack ice in early spring. Predators are primarily polar bears, killer whales and humans. Here are six kinds of seals that are found in Newfoundland. In recent years, seals have been known to come ashore and raid the vegetable gardens in Newfoundland communities.

2.3 meters; 250 kilograms

The bearded seal (Erignathus barbatus) is not common but may be seen around the tip of the northern peninsula. The long thick white whiskers give its name and the square fore flippers are responsible for the local name of "square-flipper." A large seal with a very thick neck, large eyes and a smoky grey coat, the bearded seal is usually seen alone.


Beluga Whale: (Delphinapterus leucas)
Beluga Whale

Whale meat, known in Newfoundland as Arctic steak, disappeared from the local menus in 1967, when Canada abandoned the whaling industry.

4.6 meters;1.5 tons. Males are slightly larger than females.

The St. Lawrence River Estuary has a population of about 300 belugas. Occasionally a few from an Arctic population will wander down the Newfoundland and Labrador coast.

The beluga has no dorsal fin and is pure white. Its torpedo-shaped body has a "smiling" beak like face and round head. Belugas swim slowly at the surface breathing a couple of times a minute. Although it is rare to sight one, belugas have shown up in recent years on the northern peninsula and in Notre Dame, Placentia and Fortune Bays


Blue Whale: (Balaenoptera musculus)
And they can fly, too!

25 meters; 100 tons

Commonly known in Newfoundland and Labrador as the "biggest kind," the blue whale is larger than all the dinosaurs that once roamed the earth. This baleen whale is of special concern due to low population numbers. When the expansive blueish-grey back appears it seems to slide on forever until a small triangular dorsal fin shows itself only moments before one catches a fleeting glimpse of its tail. It blasts a straight thin column of mist 9 meters into the air with each blow. The blue whale may be seen singly or in groups of two or three along the edge of the pack ice on the west and southwest coast of Newfoundland.

Some have been sighted off Bellevue in Trinity Bay


Bottlenose Whale: (Hyperoodon ampullatus)
Bottlenose Whale

8 meters; 3.3 tons

The bottlenose whale commonly found offshore Labrador in cold deep water, occasionally migrates to Newfoundland. Its steeply sloped forehead has a swollen looking head that is full of spermaceti. Generally it is a light brown with a white forehead and has a sickle-shaped fin. Because the northern bottlenose is curious and comes close to boats to investigate noise, it was an easy target during whale-hunting days.

On terminal dives the bottlenose lifts its tail out of the water like the humpback does.


Brook Trout (Mud Trout)
Great day on the brook.

Known locally as mud trout and often as speckled trout elsewhere, this fish is native to both parts of the province and is the most widely known because it thrives in all sizes of ponds and rivers. They are enthusiastically caught by anglers, including during the winter ice-fishing season and again from May to September. Like the brown, mud trout also are known to make their way to saltwater where they are referred to as sea trout and are eagerly fished with rod-and-line.


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