Vendace (Coregonus albula)

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Vendace fact file

Vendace description

GenusCoregonus (1)

This fish (Coregonus albula) is one of the UK's rarest freshwater fish (2); it is a small, streamlined (2) and slim fish with a bluish green back (5), a white belly (6) and silvery flanks (5). The fins are grey in colour becoming darker towards the margins (6). It has large eyes, a relatively small mouth and an adipose fin (5). Other common names for this species include 'whitefish' and 'European cisco' in England and 'Fendas' in Welsh (7).

Also known as
White fish.
Total length: up to 28 cm (2)

Vendace biology

In Britain the fish occurs only as non-migratory freshwater populations, but in the Baltic it occurs as anadromous populations (they spend most of their time in saltwater and migrate to freshwater to spawn) (7). The vendace feeds primarily on free-swimming organisms such as water fleas (6) and planktonic crustaceans (5).

Spawning occurs in November and December (6); adults move to the edges of lakes, and females scatter the small two millimetre diameter yellow to orange eggs in gravely areas in still water (6). The eggs are fertilised externally and develop slowly on the bottom of the lake (7), hatching the following spring (2). Individuals are thought to live up to six years of age (2).


Vendace range

Found in north-west Europe between the English Lake District in the east to western Russia, and from a northern extreme in Scandinavia to north western Russia reaching south to Bavaria (2). Historically the fish has been recorded from just four UK lakes; two in Scotland (3), and two in the English Lake District (8). One of the Scottish populations has not been recorded since 1911 when a sewage works was built; the other Scottish population has not been recorded since the 1970s (9) and so the species is classed as extinct in Scotland (10).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.

Vendace habitat

Occurs in open water shoals in deep, cold lakes where the vendace can take refuge from hot summer temperatures (2) (6). It also requires shallow areas with a gravely substrate for spawning (7).


Vendace status

The vendace is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1), Annex III of the Bern Convention, Annex V of the EC Habitats and Species Directive, Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (3), and Schedule 3 of the Conservation Regulations 1994 (4).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern


Vendace threats

The fish has faced pressure from the introduction of non-indigenous fish species, which were probably introduced by pike anglers using live bait (2). Juvenile roach compete for planktonic food with vendace, and ruffe eat vendace eggs (2). Ruffe were recorded in Derwent Water for the first time in 2001 (11). Other threats are habitat loss and pollution, particularly eutrophication resulting from nutrient enrichment (3), and siltation of spawning sites with organic matter (9). The A66 passes close to Bassenthwaite Lake; an accident involving an industrial tanker would be devastating (2).


Vendace conservation

The fish is fully protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981), and both lakes are Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and candidate Special Areas of Conservation (2). Bassenthwaite Lake is also a National Nature Reserve managed by the National Trust. The management plan for this site takes into account the presence of fish (3). A current conservation measure involves hatching vendace eggs from Bassenthwaite Lake in captivity and releasing the young back into the lake (11). In addition, young vendace from Bassenthwaite and Derwent Water have been released into two Scottish water bodies. A survey of water bodies in Cumbria aimed to detect suitable places for the establishment of refuge populations, however no suitable sites were found (11).

The vendace is a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (UK BAP); the Species Action Plan aims to maintain the current populations and re-introduce the species to Scotland by 2005 (3).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Atlas.
The UK Biodiversity Action Plan for this species is available at UK BAP.

Find out more

For more on the vendace: 



Information authenticated by the Environment Agency:



Adipose fin
In some fish, a second dorsal fin consisting of a flap of fatty tissue which lacks supporting rays.
In fish: those species that spend most of their lives at sea but migrate to fresh water to spawn.
Diverse group of arthropods (a phylum of animals with jointed limbs and a hard chitinous exoskeleton) characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (parts of the mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, slaters, woodlice and barnacles.
Nutrient enrichment of aquatic or terrestrial ecosystems.
The fusion of gametes (male and female reproductive cells) to produce an embryo, which grows into a new individual.
A species that occurs naturally in an area.
Aquatic organisms that drift with water movements; may be either phytoplankton (plants), or zooplankton (animals).
Attempt to establish a native species back into an area where it previously occurred.
The production or depositing of large quantities of eggs in water.


  1. IUCN Red List (March, 2011)
  2. Cumbria Biodiversity Action Plan: Vendace (September, 2008)
  3. UK Biodiversity Species Action Plan (September, 2008)
  4. Conservation Regulations (March, 2002)
  5. Cihar, J. (1991) A Field Guide in Colour to Freshwater Fish. Aventium Publishing, Prague.
  6. Newdick, J. (1979) The Complete Freshwater Fishes of the British Isles. AC & Black, London.
  7. Fishbase (March, 2002)
  8. Freshwater fish. The Environment Agency (March, 2002)
  9. Winfield, I.J., Fletcher, J.M. and James, J.B. (2004) Conservation ecology of the vendace (Coregonus albula) in Bassenthwaite Lake and Derwent Water, U.K. Annales Zoologici Fennici, 41: 155 - 164. Available at:
  10. Scottish Natural Heritage (March, 2002)
  11. Winfield, I. (2001) Pers. comm.

Image credit


© Centre of Ecology and Hydrology

Centre of Ecology and Hydrology
CEH Windermere
The Ferry House
Far Sawrey
LA22 0LP
United Kingdom


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