Lavaret (Coregonus lavaretus)

Lavaret, otherwise known as common whitefish
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Lavaret fact file

Lavaret description

GenusCoregonus (1)

A freshwater fish belonging to the salmon and trout family, the fish (Coregonus lavaretus) has a typical salmon-like appearance and is distinguished from other species by its distinctive, protruding upper jaw (1). The lavaret varies from olive-green to light brownish-grey, with silver sides and a white underside. The species has a distinctive sail-like caudal fin containing 19 soft rays. The body of the lavaret is elongated, with a linear scale pattern visible on the flank of the fish running from the gills to the dorsal fin (2).

Interestingly the classification of this species is controversial. The name Coregonus lavaretus has been used for nearly all Eurasian members of the genus at some point in history and its current classification is under review (3) (4).

Length: up to 73 cm (2)
up to 10 kg (2)

Lavaret biology

When found in freshwater lakes, the lavaret is a social species and is usually found in open water shoals (3). It feeds almost exclusively on insect larvae and crustaceans (2). Populations inhabiting brackish water, feed on larger crustaceans that inhabit the riverbed (1).

For most of the year, the lavaret lives near the bottom of the lake. However, when spawning occurs in December, individuals migrate to gravelly shallows near shore, on which the female deposits its eggs. This process normally occurs at night. The eggs are fertilised externally and are left to develop at the bottom of the lake, with the larval stage lasting 19 days (2).


Lavaret range

The fish is native to the Swiss-French border, where it was originally found in Lake Bourget and Lake Aiguebelette in France, and Lake Geneva in Switzerland. Unfortunately the population in Lake Geneva is now extinct (1) (2). The lavaret has also been introduced into many pre-alpine lakes and much of Eastern Europe and Russia due to the commercial value of the species (4) (5) (6).


Lavaret habitat

Most commonly, the lavaret occurs in permanent, deep, freshwater lakes over eight hectares in size (2). A shallow gravel area, preferably near shore, is necessary for the fish to spawn (2).

The species has also been known to inhabit brackish water in river estuaries but is rarely found in full salt-water (1).


Lavaret status

Classified as Vulnerable (VU) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Vulnerable


Lavaret threats

The Lake Bourget population of the fish has no known threats, and the reasons for extinction of this species in Lake Geneva are unknown. However, the introduction of non-native invasive fish species is a potential threat (1). There is also the threat of overfishing as the lavaret is fished commercially as a food source (6).


Lavaret conservation

The lavaret is abundant in Lake Bourget, and therefore there are no current conservation measures in place for this species (1).


Find out more

Learn more about the lavaret:



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This species information was authored as part of the Arkive and Universities Scheme.


Caudal fin
The tail fin of a fish.
Diverse group of animals with jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton, characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (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, woodlice and barnacles.
Dorsal fin
The unpaired fin found on the back of the body of fish, or the raised structure on the back of most cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises).
Of the stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
The production or depositing of eggs in water.


  1. IUCN Red List (August, 2010)
  2. FishBase - Lavaret (August, 2010)
  3. Etheridge, E.C. (2009) Aspects of the conservation biology of Coregonus lavaretus in Britain. Ph.D. Thesis, University of Glasgow, Scotland.
  4. Kottelat, M. and Freyhof, J. (2007) Handbook of European Freshwater Fishes. Publications Kottelat, Cornol, Switzerland.
  5. Stich, H. and Maier, G. (2006) Enumeration of prey items in stomachs of European whitefish which contain digested fragments. Limnologica - Ecology and Management of Inland Waters, 36: 138-142.
  6. Aronsuu, K. and Huhmarniemi, A. (2004) Changes in the European whitefish population of the Kalajoki - potential consequences of the alterations of fishing patterns in the Gulf of Bothnia. Annales Zoologici Fennici, 41: 195-204.

Image credit

Lavaret, otherwise known as common whitefish  
Lavaret, otherwise known as common whitefish

© Johnny Jensen /

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