The population of whitefish (Coregonus lavaretus) in Ringkøbing Fjord: Effects of fishery, stocking and natural reproduction (38827)

Project Details


Objectives of the project are to improve our knowledge on the whitefish population in the Ringkøbing Fjord Lagoon and effects associated with the commercial exploitation of the population, i.e. to what extend the traditional gill-net (46 mm monofilnets) fishery for whitefish affect both the whitefish population and other species of fish in the lagoon. 
Another goal is to establish how much natural reproduction and stocking of hatchery reared fry contributes to the adult population. These results will provide a much better basis for the management of whitefish populations in Denmark in general and in Western Jutland in particular.
The natural population of whitefish in the Ringkøbing Fjord Lagoon has been the subject of an extensive fishery for more than 100 years. The fishery is primarily performed by commercial fishermen, but estimated from the number of recreational fishers in the area, a substantial amount is caught by this group as well. The lagoon holds the largest population of whitefish in Denmark. The official landing statistics (only covering the commercial catches) shows that the catch through the 20th century typically has varied between 10 and 60 tons per year (e.g. mean 1980-2000 25.1 tons per year). Since 2001 the landings have increased to a mean of 55 tons per year (range 14-94 t), with a mean value of1.2 m DKK. This constitutes 75-95 % of the total Danish whitefish fishery.

Since 1986 ca. 4 million hatchery reared fry has been stocked in the lagoon each year. 3.6 million are stocked as newly hatched larvae in April. 0.4 million are raised to a size of 3-4 cm before stocking in late May.

The population of sea trout (Salmo trutta) in the main tributary of the lagoon, the River Skjern, is much smaller than expected, considering the environmental conditions of both the river and the lagoon and the size of the river. One possible reason is by-catch in the whitefish fishery. The landing of sea trout and the endangered salmon (Salmo salar) from the lagoon is prohibited and the discard mortality for sea trout is considered to be very high. Investigations on the subject of by-catch in gill-nets set for whitefish in the Baltic Sea supports this hypothesis.
In the project we estimate the catch of whitefish and the by-catch of other fish species in the whitefish gill-net fishery, with special emphasis on salmonids, by a combination of experimental fishery,monitoring selected commercial fishing trips and a questionnaire the fishermen on their effort. A number of different approaches re time and place of fishing and net construction is tested to describe how much by-catch can be minimized.
The result of natural spawning in River Skjern is investigated by a combination of catching newly hatched larvae with drift-nets and e-DNA analysis of water samples from the river. The latter method is a very novel approach.
Through the experimental fishing, supplemental data on the whitefish, salmonids as well as other species (less detailed) are collected to describe population dynamic parameters (size and age distribution,growth, condition etc.), primarily of whitefish and salmonids.
The results shows, that by-catch of sea-trout in the whitefish gill-net fishery is unavoidable, but also that the by-catch can be reduced substantially by employing specific gears and methods. The by-catch of salmon is insignificant while the by-catch of other species, especially flounder is substantial. These results will be reported in autumn 2016. The investigation on natural reproduction in the River Skjern is still ongoing and will be reported in 2017.
This project is coordinated by DTU Aqua and funded by the Danish Rod and Net Fishing License Funds.
Research area: Freshwater Fisheries and EcologyResearch area: Population Genetics
Effective start/end date01/01/201131/12/2016