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  6. New landmark book expands knowledge of Canada’s Arctic Fishes

New landmark book expands knowledge of Canada’s Arctic Fishes

© Candaian Scientific Submersible Facility/DFO, 2014


A Spotted Wolffish on the cover of Marine Fishes of Arctic Canada. 

Ottawa, February 19, 2018 - Canada’s interest in the Arctic has never been stronger. With the dramatic pace of change in the climate and ecosystems of the North comes the critical need for science that documents the state of those ecosystems. Now, the first definitive reference to fishes in Canada’s Arctic marine ecosystems provides just such a benchmark. The 600-page Marine Fishes of Arctic Canada, a decades-long effort, is co-edited by scientists with the Canadian Museum of Nature and Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and published by the University of Toronto Press.

The authors document 221 species of fishes, about 30 more than the previously recorded number.  While, none of the 221 species are new to science, this broad diversity covers fishes found in the Eastern and Western Arctic, along the coasts, and up to the most northern reaches of Canada’s Arctic Ocean. Some such as Arctic Char are familiar as an important food source with cultural significance; others, such as the Boa Dragonfish come from deep waters in the Davis Strait or are known from a few specimens in museum collections.

Marine Fishes of Arctic Canada is the culmination of decades of scientific research to collect specimens, compile data, collate records and publish the accumulated knowledge about these fishes,” explains Dr. Brian Coad, ichthyologist, co-editor of the book, and Research Associate with the Canadian Museum of Nature. “The result is the first book of its kind to synthesize this knowledge, which will provide a lasting resource to those interested in Arctic biodiversity and conservation.”

The book’s introductory chapters cover the history of Arctic fish research, fish habitats, Arctic climate, fisheries, fish structure, and the collection and preservation of fishes. Also included is an essay on traditional ecological knowledge.

“This book is a timely summary of the diversity and presently known distributions of Arctic marine fishes of Canada” says co-editor Dr. James Reist, Senior scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada. “Rapid changes presently affecting the Arctic cannot be understood without accurate baseline knowledge as summarized in the book and its associated materials. Understanding shifts in biodiversity, distributions and ecological relationships of Arctic fishes is essential to effective future management of Arctic marine waters and fisheries.”

The 221 fish species belong to 58 families. These extend from sharks and rays, lampreys and sturgeons, to bony fishes, which range from salmonids such as the Arctic Char, to deepwater gulpers to righteye flounders. Some families, such as the eelpouts, include many species, while others such as the manefishes or sand lances comprise only one or two species. Coad and Reist drew on the expertise of ten other researchers to complete the scientific documentation for the book.

Each family is presented with a general account followed by species descriptions comprising the common name, taxonomy, physical description and identification, as well as information about the species habitat, biology, distribution, commercial importance, and traditional knowledge associated with it. English and French names are provided for each species, with Inuktitut names where applicable.                                                                 

Exquisite black-and-white drawings accompany each fish, and the book features numerous photos and illustrations. Also included are new range maps documenting known species distributions as confirmed geographic points across Arctic Canada.

The book will appeal to anyone with interest in the aquatic ecosystems of the great Arctic Ocean, from Inuit and all residents of the North, to biologists and ecologists, environmental groups, resource managers, extraction companies operating in the North, as well as commercial and amateur fishers in Canada and in other circumpolar countries.

The retail price of Marine Fishes of Arctic Canada is $99.95. University of Toronto Press is offering the book at a discount ($74.96) at its website, utorontopress.com.

“University of Toronto Press is honoured to partner with The Canadian Museum of Nature and Fisheries and Oceans Canada on this landmark work,” says Lynn Fisher, Vice President, Book Publishing Division, University of Toronto Press.

Marine Fishes of Arctic Canada is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Don McAllister, Curator of Ichthyology at the Canadian Museum of Nature from 1958 to 1986. His vision to “look North” and start documenting and collecting Arctic fishes in the 1960s initiated the idea of a comprehensive scientific reference based on the museum’s national fish collection. His drive over three decades greatly expanded the scope of the collection, which today numbers about 70,000 specimens and is considered among the best collections of Arctic fishes in the world. 

Through its fieldwork programs and access to research vessels, the Fisheries and Oceans Canada contributed greatly to these collections over the years. Collections in other significant natural history museums in Canada, Europe and the United States were also consulted for the book.


About the Canadian Museum of Nature
The Canadian Museum of Nature is Canada's national museum of natural history and natural sciences. The museum provides evidence-based insights, inspiring experiences and meaningful engagement with nature's past, present and future. It achieves this through scientific research, a 14.6 million specimen collection, education programs, signature and travelling exhibitions, and a dynamic web site, nature.ca.

About the University of Toronto Press
Founded in 1901, the University of Toronto Press is Canada's oldest scholarly press and is one of the largest university presses in North America, releasing over 180 new scholarly, reference, and general-interest books each year, as well as maintaining a backlist of over 3500 titles in print. For more information, visit utppublishing.com.

Information for media, to request images or interviews, or to request a review copy:

Dan Smythe
Media Relations
Canadian Museum of Nature
613-566-4781; 613-698-9253 (cell)

Chris Reed
Publicist, University of Toronto Press
416-978-2239 ex. 2248