The Marine Life Information Network

Information on the biology of species and the ecology of habitats found around the coasts and seas of the British Isles


Common whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus)

Distribution data supplied by the Ocean Biodiversity Information System (OBIS). To interrogate UK data visit the NBN Atlas.Map Help



Also known as a gwyniad, powan or shelly, the common whitefish is a member of the salmon family. It has a silver coloured streamlined body and darker coloured fins. It may reach up to 73 cm in length. Its tail fin is forked. Coregonus lavaretus has a small mouth and a protruding upper jaw.

Recorded distribution in Britain and Ireland

Found in a few estuaries and rivers off the Irish Sea from west England to south-west Scotland, with a notable populations in the river Eden, Cumbria and Llyn Tegid, Wales.

Global distribution



Coregonus lavaretus is an anadromous species inhabiting waters of very low salinity. It is a demersal species prefering cooler deeper waters.

Depth range


Identifying features

  • Silvery white member of the salmon family.
  • Up to 73 cm in length.
  • Forked tail fin.
  • Distinctly small mouth.
  • Caudal fin with 19 soft rays.

Additional information

The few remaining UK populations are under considerable threat from a variety of problems including pollution, eutrophication and competition from introduced species including Gymnocephalus cernuus (IUCN, 2003).

Listed by


  1. Froese, R. & Pauly, D., 2007. Fishbase. A global information system on fishes. [On-line], 2008-02-18

  2. Hayward, P.J. & Ryland, J.S. (ed.) 1995b. Handbook of the marine fauna of North-West Europe. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

  3. Himber, M. K-J. & Lehtonen, H., 1994. Systematics and nomenclature of coregonid fishes, particularly in Northwest Europe. Archive für Hydrobiologie: Special Issues on Advanced Limnology, 46, 39-47.

  4. Howson, C.M. & Picton, B.E., 1997. The species directory of the marine fauna and flora of the British Isles and surrounding seas. Belfast: Ulster Museum. [Ulster Museum publication, no. 276.]

  5. Muus, B.J. & Nielsen, J.G. 1999. Sea Fish. Scandinavian Fishing Year Book. Hedehusene: Denmark

  6. Whitehead, P.J.P., Bauchot, M.-L., Hureau, J.-C., Nielson, J. & Tortonese, E. 1986. Fishes of the North-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Vol. I, II & III. Paris: United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO).


  1. NBN (National Biodiversity Network) Atlas. Available from:

  2. OBIS (Ocean Biodiversity Information System),  2023. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2023-03-30

  3. Record, 2018. RECORD Freshwater Fish Data. Occurrence dataset accessed via on 2018-10-01


This review can be cited as:

Barnes, M.K.S. 2008. Coregonus lavaretus Common whitefish. In Tyler-Walters H. and Hiscock K. Marine Life Information Network: Biology and Sensitivity Key Information Reviews, [on-line]. Plymouth: Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom. [cited 30-03-2023]. Available from:

Last Updated: 25/03/2008