Time and Tide Bell ~ #200Fish

A Continuing Arts Programme facing Lincolnshire's Coast

#200Fish is a community project to create works of art based on each of the species of fish found in the North Sea

To learn more and find out how to join the project click here.

Fish #56 Houting Coregonus oxyrinchus ~ Jean Vernon

Linocut monoprint 10 x 20 cm

Fish #56 Houting Coregonus oxyrinchus ~ Jean Vernon

Linocut monoprint 10 x 23 cm


Depending on how one defines the species, Coregonus oxyrinchus may or may not be extinct.

In the last Ice Age much of Britain, northern Europe and the North Sea between, was covered in ice. No fish could swim. As the ice retreated the fish followed. The genus Coregonus are a group of 'whitefish', some of which are entirely freshwater and lived out the Ice Age in southern and central European lakes and rivers and some are, like their relative, salmon, anadromous, living their adult lives at sea but swimming up rivers to breed in freshwater. Over the last 10000 years some populations of Coregonus have become separated from others and have evolved sufficiently to be regarded as separate species. Just when a population is classified as a species is sometimes a matter for dispute amongst taxonomists. Coregonus lavaretus is regarded as a 'complex', a group of species, subspecies, and populations whose taxonomic boundaries are difficult to define. The North Sea Houting, C. oxyrinchus, is a population that is particularly well adapted to spending its adult life in a truly marine environment of ocean salinity, rather than the brackish waters of river estuaries, the low salinity of the Baltic and freshwater rivers and lakes. Houting does retain the anadromous habit of breeding in rivers.

In the 19th century it was a common enough fish to make a commercial fishery off Britain's North Sea coasts and was regularly found on the London fish markets. But by 1940, the English, Belgian and Dutch populations were extinct, victims of overfishing, river pollution and river barrier construction. The Danish houting survived but there is controversy whether this population should be classed as a separate species. Whatever the taxonomic status, a programme of reintroduction (or introduction) of Danish houting to Dutch waters has recently been undertaking with some €13 million funding from the EU to establish a breeding programme and reduce pollution and remove river obstruction.

Freshwater relatives of the houting, the Shelly, Powan, Pollan, Gwyniad and Vendace are found in some British and Irish lakes. The Vendace is probably Britain's rarest fish, the only natural population being in Derwent Water and, possibly, in Bassenthwaite. All the Coregonus fish require unpolluted, highly oxygenated and cold water. They breed in the winter when temperatures are below about 6°C. Climate change is a threat to these relic Arctic populations as their lakes become warmer and subject to eutrophication. Members of the Coregonus genus are likely to be among the first of our fish species to become extinct because of global warming.

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Lincolnshire Time and Tide Bell Community Interest Company is a not-for profit organisation, registered at Companies House. Company Number 10934941