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Fish #59 Arctic Char Salvelinus alpinus ~ Lee Conybeare
Oil on canvas 30 x 49 cm
The name 'Char' is thought to derive from the Gaelic name for the fish which means red belly. As its name suggests the Arctic char is a cold water fish. It is a close relative of salmon & brown trout. There are two types of Arctic char. One form inhabits deep lakes in central northern Europe, including many lochs in Scotland, where they found themselves landlocked in northern lakes and fresh water lochs during the ice age.
The other form is migratory, commonly found in the most northerly reaches of Europe. They breed in rivers & spend their winters in the sea. Each have their own distinctive characteristics depending on their environment and the time of year. Generally the landlocked char are green/brown in colour with red and white spots on their sides. They are rarely exceed 30cm/12" long. Migratory char are silvery with red/orange bellies and can grow up to 1m/3ft. In both forms they have small scales, with the base of the tail being quite narrow. The caudal fin is large and there is a small adipose fin. Both forms have white edges to the pectoral, pelvic and anal fins. Arctic char spawn between September and November mostly in tributary streams of their river homes and feed on aquatic invertebrates and small fish.
It is relatively rare to find Arctic Char on a menu although farming of this species is becoming more widespread in Iceland and other areas of Northern Europe due to their similarity to salmon and trout. Currently Arctic Char are not under great threat but where populations have been lost, it has been due to factors such as acidification & temperature change.
Recently the Arctic char has featured in public art; a handmade steel sculpture by Brian Fell and his son George depicting a shoal of Arctic Char is one of the latest installations to take its place for the 2018 Lakes Ignite Festival to celebrate the Lake District national park becoming a world heritage site. 'The Arctic Char is one of the Lake District's most notable examples of wildlife. The fish's presence in the lakes dates back to the Ice Age and its survival there is an inspiring example of conservation.' The West Morland Gazette
The Arctic Char appealed to me because no other freshwater fish is found as far north and I always seem to be drawn to things from the icy north!
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