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

The maraena whitefish Coregonus maraena is a threatened anadromous species in the North Sea, which in the past was decimated to near extinction. Since the late1980s, several re-establishment programs have been implemented in rivers draining into the North Sea, 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 habitat (North Sea) 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, a pattern displayed by the majority (55.6%) of sampled individuals. Not only do these results reveal differential migration behavior, but they also indicate that permanent riverresidency 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 considered more explicitly in current conservation measures to support recovery of this species.

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