Newfoundland Wildlife - Lives in the Water

Brown Trout (known as German Brown)
Beautiful Colours

This trout is also an import, introduced from Germany and Scotland to the Avalon Peninsula around the same period as rainbows. The brown trout has thrived here. Most are content to live in the freshwater ponds and streams of the island but some go to sea to feed and become even more prized by anglers as their size can go up to 9 kg (20 lbs.).


Capelin (Mallotus villosos)

Along the coasts of Newfoundland, capelin spawn chiefly in June and July, and we have found them doing so in multitudes along the outer Labrador coast in July.

The capelin is an even slenderer fish than the smelt, its body being only about one-sixth to one-seventh as deep and about one-twelfth as thick as it is long, and of nearly uniform depth from gill cover to anal fin (except in the case of females when their abdomens are distended with spawn), whereas the smelt is usually deepest about its mid-length (at least if the fish is fat), which gives the two species characteristically different aspects.

The head of the capelin is pointed like that of the smelt, the mouth gaping back to below the center of the very large eye with the tip of the lower jaw projecting noticeably beyond the upper. The scales are minute, much smaller than those of the smelt and more numerous (about 200 per row on the sides of the body); the teeth so small as to be hardly visible to the naked eye, and the tongue fangs, so characteristic of the smelt are lacking here. The outline of the adipose fin likewise helps separate capelin from smelt, for it is low in the former and about half as long as the anal, but short and high in the latter. The pectoral of the capelin is broader also, usually with 15 or more rays.


Cod (Gadus morhua)
The fish that started NFLD.

The northwest Atlantic cod has been regarded as heavily over fished throughout its range, resulting in a crash in the fishery in the United States and Canada during the early 1990s.

Newfoundland's northern cod fishery can be traced back to the 16th century. "On average, about 300,000 tonnes of cod was landed annually until the 1960s, when advances in technology enabled factory trawlers, many of them foreign, to take larger catches. By 1968, landings for the fish peaked at 800,000 tonnes before a gradual decline set in. With the reopening of the limited cod fisheries last year, nearly 2,700 tonnes of cod were hauled in. Today, it's estimated that offshore cod stocks are at one per cent of what they were in 1977"

The fishery has yet to recover, and may not recover at all because of a possibly stable change in the food chain. Atlantic cod was a top-tier predator, along with haddock, flounder, and hake, feeding upon smaller prey such as herring, capelin, shrimp and snow crab. With the large predatory fish removed, their prey has had a population explosion and have become the top predators.


Dogfish (Squalus acanthias)
A common site in every outport.

Any little gray or brownish shark, with a large sharp spine lying along the front margin of each dorsal fin, caught within the Gulf, or on the shoal parts of the offshore fishing banks, is practically sure to be this "dog," of which there are thousands in the Gulf to every one shark of any other kind. One of its relatives, the black dogfish, is a regular inhabitant of the deeper slopes of the offshore Banks that front the Gulf, where we also trawled more than 50 specimens of another relative Etmopterus princeps. But there is no danger of confusing the common spiny-dog with either of these, for they are velvety black in color, the rear margins of their tail fins are indented near the tip, which is not the case in the spiny-dog, and each of their teeth, at least in the upper jaw (lower jaw as well in the black dogfish) has three to five sharp points, but only one point in the spiny dog.

This is a slender little shark, with flattened head and snout tapering to a blunt tip. Its first dorsal fin stands between pectorals and pelvics; its second dorsal fin is about two-thirds as large as the first; its pectorals form nearly an equilateral triangle; and its pelvics are well forward of its second dorsal fin. The dorsal fin spines lie close along the front margins of the two dorsals, the first not more than one-half as long, and the second nearly as long as the front margin of their respective fin, and they are very sharp. The spiny-dog has no anal fin, a lack separating it from all smooth-finned sharks known from the Gulf of Maine, except for the Greenland shark, Dalatias, and the bramble shark. There is a low fold of skin on either side of the root of the tail back of the second dorsal fin, so small, however, that there is no danger of confusing it with the caudal keels of the mackerel-shark tribe. The teeth are small, their sharp points bent toward the outer corners of the mouth so that they form a nearly continuous cutting edge along each jaw.


Fin Whale: (Balaenoptera physalus)
Fin Whale

20 meters; 40 tons

You will know when you have seen a finback. After viewing its straight high ice cream cone-shaped blow, you will then look at this streamlined black back before its long curved dorsal fin appears. Its underside is white and its side flippers are small and pointed. The fin whale is second in size to the blue whale. It is a fast whale that will submerge only to resurface some distance away.

These whales are common around Newfoundland and Labrador, generally traveling further offshore than the humpback and minke, and in groups of two to eight animals. It is a baleen whale.


Flat Fish American Plaice (Hippoglossoides platessoides)
Flat Fish

To interpret long-term trends in age and size at maturation, new statistical methods have recently been devised for estimating probabilistic maturation reaction norms based on data collected for the management of fisheries. Here we apply these methods to three Newfoundland stocks of American plaice (NAFO Divisions 2J3K, 3LNO, 3Ps) and report a clear long-term shift in the maturation reaction norms of these stocks towards maturation at younger age and smaller size.

Theory predicts that such trends could result from fishing acting as a selective force, inducing evolutionary changes in the life histories of exploited populations.

Matching long-term trends in maturation reactions norms have already been documented for several stocks that have experienced high fishing pressures (Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank cod, Northeast Arctic cod, North Sea plaice). Our results add a new dimension to these earlier findings: since fishing pressures for two stocks of Newfoundland plaice (2J3K and 3Ps) have been relatively low, our results imply that fishing is likely to result in the evolution of life histories even when fishing mortality is low, or that natural mortality has played an important role in determining selective pressures in these populations. Both options suggest that conditions for rapid life-history evolution in exploited stocks are less restrictive than previously appreciated.


Grey Seal: (Halichoerus grypus)
Looks like a couple Leaf's Fans after the Leaf's lost to Montreal.

2.2 meters; 200 kilograms

The grey seal is nicknamed "horsehead" because its long broad face resembles a horse. It is seen with the harbour seal competing for the same fish. With its massive head, heavy folded shoulders and its hisses and short barks, the grey seal is dominant over the harbour seal. Its coat varies from dark brown to silvery grey with silver or white on the belly. Its hair seems to grow the "wrong way" from tail to head. Grey seals are common on the south coast, the Gulf of St. Lawrence and up the western side of the northern peninsula.


Haddock (Melanogrammus aeglefinus)

The most obvious ways in which the haddock differs from the cod are in its black lateral line (the line on cod and pollock is paler) and in the presence of a dusky blotch on each side over the middle of the pectoral fin, and close below the lateral line. This blotch is known to Newfoundland fisherman as the "Devil's Thumb print", in Maritimes fishery it is called "St. Peter's Thumbprint". The first dorsal fin of a haddock (higher than that of a cod, relatively) is considerably higher than either the second or third dorsal, more acutely triangular in outline, and with slightly concave margin. The margin of the haddock's tail is more concave than that of the cod; and its second and third dorsal fins are more angular than is usually the case with the cod, though they are similarly rhomboidal in outline.

The haddock's mouth is relatively the smaller, not gaping back to below the eye, and the lower profile of its face is straight, with the upper profile only slightly rounded, giving the nose a characteristic wedge-shaped outline in side view. The upper jaw projects further beyond the lower in the haddock than in the cod, and the snout is usually more pointed and the body more flattened sideways. But the general arrangement of the fins is the same; there are about the same number of dorsal fin rays in haddock as in cod (14 - 17 in the first, 20 - 24 in the second, and 19 - 22,for the third fins)The anal fins average one or two more rays each (21 - 25 and 20 - 24), individual cod may have more anal rays than an individual haddock. The haddock is a slimmer fish than the cod and although its scales (from nose to tail) are of about the same size relatively (about 160 rows along the side), they are scarcely visible through the mucus with which the skin is coated.


Halibut (Hippoglossus hippoglossus)
It tastes much better than it looks

Atlantic halibut, giant members of the flatfish family, are prized table delicacies and command the highest price of any flatfish. However, total landings in the Canadian Atlantic fishery are well below those of any of the smaller flatfish commonly called flounders.

Residents of waters on both sides of the Atlantic, halibut range in the western Atlantic from Labrador southward to the Gulf of Maine and eastward to western Greenland. In Canadian waters, main areas of catch are the Nova Scotia Banks, the Grand Banks and the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Halibut are readily distinguished from most other flatfish by their large mouth and forked tail. The upper side is greenish-brown to very dark brown with scattered blotches. The underside ranges from white in small fish to gray or mottled gray-white, sometimes suffused with red, in the larger ones. Halibut can become very large and in the commercial catch their weight range is from 2.3 to over 56 kg.

They are caught with long lines and otter trawls, and marketed fresh or frozen, usually in the form of steaks and fillets.


Harbour Porpoise: (Phocoena phocoena)
Smart little buggers

1.4 meters; 41 kilograms

The harbour porpoise is the smallest of the whales. Locally it is referred to as "puffin pig" because of the grunting sound it makes while breathing. Usually seen singly or in small groups of 3 to 5 playing and spinning amongst each other, it has a rounded head with no beak, its skin is dark grey on the back and speckled white underneath. The flippers, small and black, are always located on the white portion of the body. The dorsal fin is stout and triangular, positioned in the middle of the back. Harbour porpoises are shy of boats and are not known to bowride. They are listed as "threatened" on the Canadian Endangered Species List.


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