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Different growth trends of whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) forms in the northern Baltic Sea

Kallio‐Nyberg, Irma, Veneranta, Lari, Saloniemi, Irma, Jokikokko, Erkki, Leskelä, Ari
Journal of applied ichthyology 2019 v.35 no.3 pp. 683-691
Coregonus lavaretus, anadromous fish, females, gillnets, temperature, Gulf of Bothnia
The sea growth of two whitefish forms, anadromous (Coregonus lavaretus lavaretus) and sea‐spawning (Coregonus lavaretus widegreni), was analysed using samples collected from the commercial sea catch in the Gulf of Bothnia (GoB) in the northern Baltic Sea during 1998–2014. In the GoB area, these two forms are possible to identify because the gill‐raker number and size at maturity vary between forms. The growth rate of the forms is linked to their feeding area. Sea‐spawning whitefish, which has a feeding migration near its home site, was shorter in the northern GoB (66°N–64°N) at the ages of 3–11 than those in the southern GoB (64°N–60°30′N). In the data, most whitefish were caught with gill nets in the GoB. The mesh sizes of gill nets capturing the anadromous form were mostly 35–45 mm, while those capturing the sea‐spawning form were <35 mm in the northern GoB. It is likely that the different growth trends for small and large whitefish were connected with differences in their recruitment for fishing. The length of anadromous females at the age of four sea years increased significantly, but the length of six‐year‐old anadromous female whitefish decreased over the catch years from 1998–2014. In contrast, the length of slow‐growing sea‐spawning whitefish of six years or older increased significantly in relation to the catch year in the gill‐net catch. The increase in the growth of young age groups in both forms was probably associated with the increasing temperature and the low fishing pressure on small fish. The decreasing age at capture for both forms and the depression of the mean size of old anadromous whitefish are signs of high fishing pressure with a high gill‐net effort that selectively removes the largest and oldest individuals of both forms.