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Arctic Char

Illustration by DFO

Illustration by DFO

Latin Name

Salvelinus alpinus

Group Name


Taxonomy details


Arctic char are distributed throughout the circumpolar region of the northern hemisphere where they occur as both anadromous (can travel between freshwater and the marine environment, but spawn only in freshwater), and resident freshwater populations. This includes areas such as northern Canada, Greenland, Iceland, northern Europe, Asia and Alaska. They are particularly prevalent in the northern parts of Labrador and Québec, and throughout the Canadian Arctic. In some places, Arctic char are an important commercial fish species, such as in northern Labrador and Nunavut. Resident freshwater forms of char also exist in southern locations such as Newfoundland, southern Québec and the state of Maine. In some locations, different morphological forms of char have also been found where the species exists in deep lakes such as Lake Hazen on the northern Ellesmere Island, and Gander Lake in Newfoundland.

Species Description

Arctic char are similar in shape to salmon or trout, but vary tremendously in colour depending on time of year, location and stage of development. Usually, they will have a dark-coloured back (a dark blue, brown, or green) with silverish sides and a white belly. Their sides and backs are sometimes covered with violet-pink or reddish spots. When spawning, char often take on a brilliant red or orange colour. Sea-run char commonly weigh between 2.3 and 4.5 kilograms, more than their freshwater counterparts, which weigh between 0.2 and 2.3 kilograms.

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