The Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium has acquired a pretty rare new animal for the 2017 season: A Striped Wolfish.There are 3 species of wolfish in our province, and all 3 are protected under the Species at Risk act.

Visitors can get up close and personal, while the aquarium brings their attention to issues that threaten this ecologically important species of fish.

Though visually intimidating, they’re quite docile, and unless you’re scuba-certified, you’ll generally only see one when they move inshore to spawn, as males guard the mating pair’s cluster of eggs until they’ve all hatched.

They have such big mouths and teeth so they can crush the shells of adult whelks, periwinkles, sea urchins and clams: a food source whose shells make them to tricky of a meal for lesser-mouthed fish.

It’s their preference for sea urchins that makes them important on our seafloors. Gobbling up urchins helps to maintain a healthy kelp ecosystem in our oceans. If sea urchin numbers went unchecked, they’d consume whole beds of kelp to the point of eradicating kelp from the seafloor, leaving it barren.

Many different species rely on lush beds of kelp for a variety of reasons: food, shelter, nursery habitat, and more. Not to mention we humans, who use kelp for a multitude of purposes.

Despite their vital service to the world, of eating spiked things so we may all have kelp!, the striped wolfish is poorly understood and underappreciated by the public, including the fishermen who occasionally scoop some up by accident in their crab or lobster pots.

Much like how we Newfoundlanders incorrectly call Common Murres “Turrs,” we erroneously call Striped Wolfish catfish. They’re certainly more wolfy than catty.

If you’ve never heard tell of such a fish, there’ll be an expert on hand at the aquarium today to tell you or your kids all about them. That’s what the mini aquarium is there for, “to foster curiosity about local marine life, to inspire conservation.” Emilie Novaczek, wolfish expert and researcher, will be there all afternoon.

Last weekend, Petty Harbour Mini Aquarium invited the public to name its new temporary resident, so the wolfish officially goes by Claude. Now you can address him by name if you plan on swinging by. But hurry up, they’ll be releasing Claude before the summer heat makes his tank water too warm.