The growth rates of freshwater fish in the Arctic would be expected to be very low, but some previous studies of lake whitefish (Coregonus clupeaformis) have reported relatively rapid growth and longevity estimates of less than 15 years. We used bomb radiocarbon chronologies to validate an ageing method based on otolith sections for lake whitefish in both an unexploited Arctic lake (MacAlpine Lake; longevity 50 years) and a lightly exploited temperate population (Lake Simcoe; longevity 49 years). Our results confirm previous suggestions that other ageing methods can seriously underestimate lake whitefish age after 5-8 years. A Chapman-Robson estimate of instantaneous natural mortality rate (M) of 0.12 in the unfished Arctic lake was one-quarter of that measured in other Arctic lake whitefish populations, and one-third of that predicted byPauly's (1980)growth-temperature equation. The high estimates of M reported in other whitefish studies and by Pauly's equation are almost certainly due to their being based on (incorrect) scale or surface otolith ages. Radiocarbon dating confirms that any attempt at predicting sustainable production for long-lived freshwater fishes like lake whitefish will need to be based on accurate ages derived from otolith sections.
Funding was provided by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans and US National Science Foundation Grant OCE-9985884.
© CSIRO 2019 Open Access.