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Partial migration of a maraena whitefish (Coregonus maraena) population from the River Elbe, Germany

Marcel Gerson*, Jan Dierking, Lasse Marohn, Ralf Thiel, Andreas Kl├╝gel, Victoria Sarrazin

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Maraena whitefish Coregonus maraena is a threatened anadromous species in the North Sea, which has in the past been decimated to almost extinction. Since the late 1980s, several re-establishment programs in rivers draining to the North Sea have been conducted, but the scientific basis for sustainable conservation measures is often lacking, since little is known about the biology of this species. In this study, otolith microchemistry of fish ranging from 24.6 to 58.4 cm in total length (median 31.3 cm, SD 8.4 cm) was used to characterize the migration behavior of a reintroduced population of maraena whitefish from the River Elbe, Germany. Our analyses revealed the presence of 3 different migration patterns: (1) one-time migration into high salinity (North Sea) habitat within the first year of life (29.6%), (2) multiple migrations between low and high salinity habitats starting in the first year of life (14.8%), and (3) permanent residency within low-salinity habitats, applying to the majority (55.6%) of sampled individuals. Not only do these results reveal differential migration behavior, but they also indicate that permanent river residency is common in the River Elbe population of C. maraena. The role of the Elbe as both a feeding and a spawning habitat should thus be integrated more explicitly into current conservation measures to support recovery of this species.