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Canary Islands 
Wildlife of 
the Sea 

noting what's been seen during 
Focus On Nature Tours
in the Canary Islands
with an (*)  

Photo at upper left: Short-finned Pilot Whales


Found on or by the following islands:

FV:  Fuerteventura
GC: Gran Canaria
LA:  La Gomera
LA:  La Palma
LZ:   Lanzarote
TE:  Tenerife

(i) introduced species in the Canaries

(t1):  critically endangered
(t2):  endangered
(t3):  vulnerable
(nt):  classified as near-threatened

(ph): species with a photo in the FONT website

Links within this List:

Land Mammals     Marine Mammals     Fish 

Other Links:

Upcoming FONT Tours in the Canary Islands     Narrative of a Previous FONT Canary Islands Tour

Birds of the Canary Islands     Butterflies of the Canary Islands

Amphibians & Reptiles of the Canary Islands     Interesting Plants of the Canary Islands

Directory of Photos in this Website

Land Mammals

  1. Algerian Hedgehog  (i) (*)  ______  LZ
    Erinaceus (formerly Atelerix) algirus

  2. European Rabbit  (*)  ______  LZ,TE
    Oryctolagus cuniculus 
    (the single member of its genus)

  3. Western House Mouse  (i) (*)  ______ TE
    Mus domesticus

  4. Black Rat  (i) (*) ______ TE
    Rattus rattus

  5. Canary Shrew  (*)  ______  LZ 
    Crociduta canariensis 

    The Canary Shrew is endemic to the eastern Canary Islands, where it is found only in lava fields and rocky areas of Lanzarote, where it was seen during our June '09 tour, and on Fuerteventura, and the small islets of Lobos and Mt Clara.

  6. Wild Goat  (i) (*)  ______  LZ
    Capra aegagrus 
    (was split from the Domestic Goat, Capra hircus, in 1999)

  7. Dromedary (i) (*) ______  LZ
    Camelus dromedarius 
    (a domesticated animal) 

    Marine Mammals

    The island of La Gomera, during recent years, has had the highest number 
    of offshore marine mammal species sighted.

  8. Short-finned Pilot Whale  (ph) (*)  ______  FV  GC  LG  LP  TE  
    Globicophala macrorhynchus

    Short-finned Pilot Whales
    are present all year off Tenerife and La Gomera. It occurs at a further distance off the coast of Garn Canaria. It is somewhat frequently seen off La Palma. It is often seen off Fuerteventura.

  9. Common Dolphin  (ph) (*)  ______  FV  GC  LG  LP  TE
    Delphinus delphis

    The Common Dolphin is seen infrequently off Tenerife, and seasonally off Gran Canaria. It is often seen off La Gomera, and somewhat frequently seen off La Palma. It is common off Fuerteventura.

  10. Bottlenose Dolphin  (ph) (*)   ______  FV  GC  LG  LP  TE
    Tursiops truncatus

    Bottlenose Dolphins
    are present all year off Tenerife, Gran Canaria, and La Gomera. It is frequently seen off La Palma, and is common off Fuerteventura.

  11. Atlantic Spotted Dolphin  ______  GC  LG  LP  TE
    Stenella frontalis

    Atlantic Spotted Dolphins
    occur seasonally off Tenerife and Gran Canaria. It is very common off La Gomera, and is somewhat frequently seen off La Palma. 

  12. Striped Dolphin  ______  GC  LP  TE
    Stenella coeruleoalba

    The Striped Dolphin is seen infrequently off Tenerife, and seasonally off Gran Canaria. It is sporadically seen off La Palma. 

  13. Rough-toothed Dolphin  ______  GC  LG  LP  TE
    Steno bredanensis

    The Rough-toothed Dolphin is seen infrequently off Tenerife. It is a resident off Gran Canaria. It is very common off La Gomera and frequently seen off La Palma.   

  14. Risso's Dolphin  (ph)  ______  FV
    Grampus griseus

    The Risso's Dolphin is seen, at times, off Fuerteventua.

  15. Killer Whale  (or Orca) (ph)  ______  FV
    Orcinus orca

    Killer Whales
    are often seen off Fuerteventura.  

  16. Great Sperm Whale  (t3) (ph)  ______  GC  LG  LP  TE
    Physeter macrocephalus

    The Great Sperm Whale is seen infrequently off Tenerife and La Gomera, and just occasionally off Gran Canaria. It is sporadically seen off La Palma. It is often seen off Fuerteventura.

  17. Northern Right Whale  (t2) (ph)  ______  LG  TE
    Eubalaena glacialis

    The Northern Right Whale has been seen rarely off Tenerife and La Gomera. 

  18. Humpback Whale  (t3) (ph)  ______  TE
    Megaptera novaeanglicae

    The Humpback Whale is seen infrequently off Tenerife.   

  19. Bryde's Whale  ______  GC  LG  LP  TE
    Balaenoptera edeni

    The Bryde's Whale seasonally occurs off Tenerife. It occurs at a further distance off the coast of Gran Canaria.  It is very common off La Gomera. It is sporadically seen off La Palma. 

  20. Sei Whale  (t2)  ______  LG  LP  TE
    Balaenoptera borealis

    The Sei Whale is seen infrequently off Tenerife and La Gomera. It is sporadically seen off La Palma. 

  21. Fin Whale  (t2) (ph)  ______  LG  LP  TE
    Balaenoptera physalus

    The Fin Whale seasonally occurs off Tenerife and La Gomera. It is sporadically seen off La Palma.

  22. Blue Whale  (t2) (ph)  ______  LG
    Balaenoptera m. musculus
      (the subspecies in the North Atlantic & North Pacific Oceans; 2 other subspecies are in the Southern Hemishere)

    Historically, the Blue Whale has rarely been seen off La Gomera. 

  23. Blainsville's Beaked Whale  ______  LG  LP  TE
    Mesoplodon densirostris

    The Blainsville's Beaked Whale occurs seasonally off Tenerife and La Gomera. It is sporadically seen off La Palma.

  24. Cuvier's Beaked Whale  (ph)  ______  LG  LP  TE
    Ziphius cavirostris

    The Cuvier's Beaked Whale occurs seasonally off Tenerife and La Gomera. It is sporadically seen off La Palma.   

  25. Mediterranean Monk Seal  (t1) (ph)  ______  (now extinct in the Canary Islands)
    Monachus monachus

    In the Canary Islands, there was a population of one of the most endangered animals in the world, and the second rarest of the world's pinnipeds, the Mediterranean Monk Seal. A very small number still exist in the Madeira Islands.     


    Code:  refers to page with illustration in the book "A Field Guide to Coastal Fishes, from Maine to Texas" by Val Kells & Kent Carpenter

  26. Parrot Fish  ______  
    Spaisoma (Euscarus) cretense

    The Parrotfish is the most well-known fish species around the island of Fuerteventura. It is a sexually dimorphic species, with the female being brightly decorated with red, yellow, and blue, while the male is a drab grayish brown.
    While juveniles are often seen alone, larger "viejas" group together, sometimes in schools of several hundred, to feed on rocky bottoms to a depth of 50 meters.
    The species feeds on invertebrates and especially crabs, relying on prominent beak-like teeth.

    The most characteristic Canarian fish, much sought after by divers and fisherman alike, the Parrotfish, or "Vieja", remains an important commercial species despite heavy overfishing. A reduction in the use of nasa fish traps has brought about an increase in the population around Gran Canaria. It is traditionally fished for from small craft using salted crabs on large hooks and a rod tipped with a stingray tail.            

    In Ports & Harbors:

    A light shone down harbor walls can reveal goldfish-like Cardinalfish with the larger red and white Glasseyes, which have large eyes that glow in the light. 
    Black and silver Bream or "Sargos" are much more active at night, and large, mixed groups can often be located with a light.

    A visit to a fishing port in the evening is a good way of seeing some of the deeper water and sport fish landed in the islands. Traditional fishing boats bring in varied catches, caught either with fish traps called "nasas", nets, or longlines. 
    One can look out for the multi-colored Parrotfish or "Viejas", hogfish, and the grotesque but very tasty Scorpionfish.
    Larger fishing boats and bog game boats catch a variety of tuna, sharks, swordfish and marlins, bluefish, and large bream and grouper.        

  27. Golden Mullet  ______
    Liza asurata

    The Golden Mullet is the most common of several mullet species around Fuerteventura. It is often seen in harbors and close to shore. Large shools are often encountered and large specimens can be found in very shallow water.
    An algae and debris feeder, it can be attracted with bread. The fish is not consumed in the Canaries, but it is challenging to catch.     

  28. Yellowmouth Barracuda  ______
    Sphyraena viridensis

    The Yellowmouth Barracuda is the most common large predator in the coastal waters of Fuerteventura. It often forms large schools. It is mostly frequently found in harbors and by steep cliffs but smaller numbers can be found almost everywhere.
    A voracious predator of small fish, the Barracuda is a significant sport and commercial fish species. 

    Yellowmouth Barracudas around Fuerteventura are not aggressive. There has not been any recorded attack by a Barracuda on a human in the Canary Islands.

    The Yellowmouth Barracuda can be up to a meter and a half in length. Groups in harbors tend to swim in shoals of from 10 to as many as 200. The species can be recognized by their elongated shape and pointed mouths.             

  29. Black Damselfish  ______
    Abudefduf luridus

    Small but spectacular, the Black Damselfish is found almost everywhere around Fuerteventura, but especially over rocky and weedy bottoms in shallow water. Its bright blue color and trusting nature make it a diver's favorite.
    It can sometimes be tempted to feed from the hand, and is often seen along harbor walls and in rockpools. 
    Males develop orange patches during the breeding season.    

  30. Ornate Wrasse  (or Pejeverde)  ______
    Thalassoma pavo

    The Ornate Wrasse is one of the most common and beautiful fish in Canarian waters. It is often found in mixed shools along with the Black Damselfish and the Band-tail Chromis.
    It is found everywhere over pure sand bottoms from the inter-tidal zone down to depths of 200 meters. Males are longer with more distinctive coloration and, like many wrasses, the species can change its sex. 

  31. Giant Manta Ray  (nt)  ______  (FGCF:95)
    Manta birostris 

    At night, Giant Manta Rays sometimes come into harbors to feed around lights. 

  32. Reef Manta Ray  ______
    Manta alfredi

    Two verified reports and photographs of the Reef Manta Ray off the Canary islands and the Cape Verde Islands, and historical reports and photographs off the coast of Senegal in northwest Africa (1958), are the only evidence of the Reef Manta Ray in the Atlantic Ocean.
  33. Glasseye Snapper  ______  (FGCF:227)
    Heteropriacanthus cruentatus

    The Glasseye is common, but nocturnal. During the day, it hides in caves. It does allow divers to approach closely. It can be common in the crevices of harbor walls and man-made structures.

    Like the "Vieja", or Parrotfish, the Glasseye is susceptible to crustacean parasites. It is an attractive species that is of limited interest as a sport fish.      

  34. Cardinal Fish  ______
    Apogon imberbis

    The Cardinal Fish is a common nocturnal species that hides in caves and crevices during the day. It is attractive enough to have great potential as a coldwater marine aquarium species.

    It is the male of the Cardinal Fish that incubates the eggs, in his mouth.

    The Cardinal Fish is a pest for night fisherman, as its large mouth and strong bite make it a bait stealer and nuisance. 

  35. Wreckfish  ______  (FGCF:197)
    Polyprion americanus

    The Wreckfish is a deep-sea species. It is an important commercial and food fish in the Canary Islands.
    It occurs in depths between 200 and 800 meters. 
    Most Wreckfish caught in the Canaries are much smaller than the maximum.   

  36. Barred Hogfish  ______
    Bodianus (formerly Pseudolepidaplois) scrofa

    The Barred Hogfish is found on rocky and mixed bottoms down to 150 meters. it is an important species for traditional fishermen, even though it is listed as a threatened species. 
    It is an attractive fish, but it is not often seen by snorkelers as it prefers deeper waters. It is often seen in the mixed catch of small fishing vessels arriving back in port on Fuerteventura.    

    In the Open Ocean:

    From ferries between the Canary Islands, in addition to various seabirds, marine mammals, and sea turtles, other oceanic creatures that can be sighted include: Blue Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks, Portuguese Man of War Jellyfish, flying fish, and Manta Rays.  

  37. Garfish  ______
    Belone belone gracilis

    Small schools of curious Garfish appear close to shore around Fuerteventura during the summer months. Rarely seen more than a few centimeters from the surface of the water, the Garfish is often missed by divers and snorkelers. 
    The fish is good eating despite its slender build and green bones. 

  38. Skipjack Tuna  ______  (FGCF:381)
    Katsuwonus pelamis

    The Skipjack Tuna is a small, schooling tuna that runs in Canary Islands waters through the summer and autumn. It is an important commercial and sporting species, the Skipjack Tuna is traditionally caught with rod and line from small offshore craft.
    The Skipjack Tuna is a voracious fish-eater that is particularly fond of Bogues.    

  39. Albacore  ______  (FGCF:383)
    Thunnus alalunga

    The Albacore is one of several large pelagic and epipelagic Tunnid species common in Canarian waters at certain times of year, along with the Yellowfin, Big-eye, and Bluefin Tunas.
    All are important commercial and sport fish and can be caught from chartered sports fishing craft in the south of Gran Canaria island. 

  40. White Trevally (or Guelly Jack ______  (FGCF:249)
    Pseudocaranx dentex

    The White Trevally is an epipelagic to pelagic species found down to depths of 100 meters. It is a powerful predatory fish at the top of the coastal food chain.
    Once a common species, the White Trevally has been overfished to the point where it is now rarely seen. Juveniles are sometimes still found around mooring buoys and sometimes "adopt" divers and snorkelers, as well as large fish such as the Saddled Bream.

  41. Atlantic Chub Mackerel  ______  (FGCF:381)
    Scomber colias

    The Atlantic Chub Mackerel is one of two mackerel species present in Canarian waters at certain times of year along with the Frigate Tuna. Both are fished commercially and are good fishing from small craft.
    Large schools of small Atlantic Chub Mackerel are sometimes found close to shore often in the company of Bogues.   

  42. Blue Marlin  ______  (FGCF:385)
    Makaira nigricans

    The Blue Marlin is an oceanic species reaching 650 kilograms. It is quite common around the Canary Islands and is an important sport fish.
    Several Blue Marlin records have been broken around the archipelago, and the waters of the Canaries are famous for their large specimens. Chartered fishing boats operating from the harbors of Fuerteventura seek out this species. 
    The physically similar Swordfish is also occasionally caught although it prefers warmer waters.   

  43. Tropical Two-wing Flyingfish  ______  (FGCF:149)
    Exocoetus volitans

    The Tropical Two-wing Flying Fish is a curious species found in small groups close to the surface of the water. It is capable of leaping clear of the water and ""flying"" up to 100 meters using its elongated pectoral fins.
    The Tropical Two-wing Flying Fish is a plankton feeder that is hunted by Tuna. it is often seen flying away from boats and ferries around Fuerteventura. 

    Close to Shore:

  44. Salema Porgy  ______
    Sarpa salpa

    The Salema Porgy is one of the most frequently encountered fish in Fuerteventuran waters. It forms large uniform schools close to the shore.
    In bright light, the Salema Porgy appears blue with fine yellow stripes. It is a grazing species whose abundance may be due to its unpleasant flavor.
    The fish is attracted to bread and is not afraid of divers bearing food.  

  45. Bogue  (a species of seabream)  ______
    Boops boops

    The Bogue is a very common species that has benefitted from the overfishing of predators. Thus, the Bogue population can assume almost plague proportions in some areas.  
    It is rarely eaten as it has traditionally been considered a dirty fish that feeds on the corpses of fishermen.
    The Bogue is found in open water down to 250 meters. It is used as a bait fish for Tuna fishing.  

  46. Rock Goby  ______
    Gobius paganellus

  47. Montagu's Blenny  ______
    Coryphoblennius galerita

  48. Triplefin  ______
    Trypterygion tripteronotus

  49. Rubber Eye  ______
    Ophioblennius atlanticus atlanticus

  50. Cleaver Wrasse  ______
    Xyrichthys novacula

  51. Herrera  ______
    Lithognathus mormyrus

  52. Lizard Fish  ______
    Synodus saurus

  53. Greater Weever  ______
    Trachinus draco

  54. Flounder  ______
    Bothus podas maderensis

  55. Yellow Trigger Fish  ______
    Stephanolepsis hispidus

  56. Red Mullet  ______
    Mullus surmuletus

  57. Short-snouted Seahorse  ______
    Hippocampus hippocampus

    A very good book about Seahorses, and an enjoyable read, is "Poseidon's Steed, the Story of Seahorses, from Myth to Reality", by Helen Scales, Gotham Books, 2009.   

  58. Dusky Grouper  ______
    Epinephelus marginatus

  59. Comb Grouper  ______
    Mycteroperca fusca

  60. Band-tail Chromis  ______
    Chromis limbatus

  61. Bastard Grunt  ______
    Pomadasys incuisus

  62. African Striped Grunt  ______
    Parapristipoma octolineatum

  63. Sharpnose Pufferfish  ______  (FGCF:421)
    Canthigaster rostrata

  64. Scorpionfish  ______
    Scorpaena scrofa

    Other Sealife

  65. Lime Urchin  ______

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