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).


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  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),  2024. Global map of species distribution using gridded data. Available from: Ocean Biogeographic Information System. Accessed: 2024-05-20

  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 20-05-2024]. Available from:

Last Updated: 25/03/2008