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Keywords:

  • conservation;
  • threats;
  • management;
  • introductions;
  • habitat change

Abstract –  The Arctic charr occurs in lakes across Britain and Ireland and was previously described here as 15 separate species. Most authorities now agree that all these stocks belong to a single polymorphic species complex Salvelinus alpinus (L.). This fish is given little protection in British and Irish law and there has been a steady loss of natural populations in recent years in all the countries concerned. A few new stocks have been created either intentionally or accidentally. In Scotland, only a small proportion of the 258 recorded natural populations has been studied and at least 12 of these are now extinct. There are at least four introduced populations originating from native Scottish stocks, but the fate of stocks introduced from Canada for aquaculture is uncertain. In England, there are eight extant populations in Cumbria and four others extinct. The status of introduced stocks in England is uncertain but there is probably one population surviving in Yorkshire. In Wales, eight lakes with resident Arctic charr populations have been recorded, three of these populations are natural, one is extinct and four have been introduced. In Ireland, of the 74 known populations, approximately 30% are extinct. There is no evidence to indicate that introduced stocks (some of them from Iceland) in a small number of lakes have survived there. A range of factors is involved in the extinction of populations and these include pollution, eutrophication, acidification, afforestation, engineering, exploitation, aquaculture, introductions and climate change. Much research remains to be done and unique stocks of this valuable species will continue to be lost unless positive action is taken through local conservation management backed by appropriate national legislation.