Cyclostomes and fishes of the Leningrad region

Sergey  Anatsky (St. Petersburg university, St Petersburg Naturalists Society) , Leonid Kudersky (Insitute of Limnology RAS), Alexei  Neeolov (Zoological institute RAS), Dmitriy Chmilevsky (St. Petersburg university)

The first recorded data on fishes of the contemporary Leningrad region can be found in books, produced as early as XV-XVI centuries. In the end of the XVIII century there appeared the first scientific lists of the fish fauna in the Petersburg province (now Leningrad region) and data on commercial fishes with no indication of their Latin names. The classic work by P. Pallas (Pallas, 1814) published at the beginning of the XIX century and presenting data on the occurrence of individual fish species in the water bodies of the province also belongs to this group of papers. It was only in 1863 when the occurrence of some species in the east of the Gulf of Finland and in Lake Ladoga was recorded in the review of Finnish fishes by A. Malmgren.

The first paper specifically devoted to the ichthyofauna of the region is the monograph by K. Kessler (Кесслер, 1854). It describes 63 species of marine and freshwater fishes (including migratory fishes), inhabiting the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland, lakes and rivers. Comments based on the author's materials were presented for many of the species, including details of their distribution, biology, fisheries, etc. So far, no paper of equivalent value to this monograph has been published for the water bodies of the region (excluding more popular brochure by A.V. Neelov (Неелов, 1987)). After the work by K. Kessler the study of fishes in the Leningrad region further proceeded along two major ways: 1) research into the fish fauna of individual waterbodies or groups of lakes and pools; 2) study of the various fish species biology (including taxonomy and focusing on predominantly commercial fishes). Ichthyofauna of the region in general has not been analysed, but numerous data on the taxonomic status, biology and occurrence of fishes in the region can be found in four editions of the well-known report by L.S. Berg and the volumes of his Fauna of Russia - Fauna of the USSR.

The main paper dealing with fishes in the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland was prepared by L.S. Berg. It contains materials on 58 species, data on the occurrence and, partly, biology and catches. The modern checklist of fishes in the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland contains 53 species. Several investigations focused on commercially important species were carried out by the State Research Institute on Lake and River Fisheries (GosNIORKh). Most comprehensively studied are such commercial species as Baltic herring, salmon, pike-perch as well as vendace, white fish, roach, sichei, eel, perch, sea scorpion, etc. It is clearly seen that only the major commercial species are more or less studied in the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland, while other fishes inhabiting the area remain poorly if at all studied. Even such common fishes as three- and nine-spined sticklebacks are practically unexplored.

A similar situation in the coverage by studies is observed for the fish fauna of Lake Ladoga. Though the information about it has been accumulated since the late XVIII century the knowledge of many species is far from being complete. One of the first lists of Lake Ladoga fishes (incomplete) giving only the Russian names of the species appeared in 1875. Thereafter there have been several publications of the systematic lists of fish taxa in the lake. The latest investigations estimate total of 43 species, excluding those introduced into the lake. As a result of intensive research detailed information was obtained for a number of essential commercial species of the lake, however all the other fish species remains unexplored. This situation hinders the development and implementation of conservation measures which are crucial for the fish fauna of the lake due to the intensive anthropogenic load on the lake ecosystem.

Ichthyological surveys also cover some rivers in the region. The Neva river has always been the priority one to study fish populations. The modern list of fishes in the river numbers 30 species, and a number of papers present data on biology of such river-dependent species as river lamprey, river lamprey, salmon, stickleback, vendace. Besides the Neva river, the fish fauna of the rivers Luga and Volkhov is relatively well known. They were recorded to host 41 and 40 fish species respectively. The ichthyofauna of other rivers of the Leningrad region was not reflected in scientific publications. Some information on this subject can be found only in the literature on amateur fishing.

The study of the fish fauna in small and medium lakes of the region started back in the 1930's. Extensive research of the Karelian isthmus lakes was carried out in 1945-1948. The work on small lakes gained momentum in the 1960-70's during cadastre-oriented surveys of the waterbodies related to the measures for the organization of freshwater fish farms. The investigated lakes of the Karelian isthmus, southern and eastern areas of the region were reported to have 37 species of cyclostomes and fishes, introduced species not included. The ichthyofauna of small lakes in general is still poorly studied in view of the large number of such waterbodies. The amount of data on all fish species occurring there, especially non-commercial fishes, is rather limited.

Thus, considerable data has been accumulated on the fish fauna of the region in general. Its qualitative composition is rather comprehensively described in the literature. The species composition is observed to be supplemented by acclimatized species. E.g., brook trout and ratan goby have become naturalized in the waterbodies of the region. There are also occasional occurrences of other species introduced for fisheries purposes and acclimatization. On the other hand, different groups of waterbodies and fish species are rather unevenly studied. The most complete data were accumulated for the eastern part of the Gulf of Finland and Lake Ladoga. Still poorly studied is the fish fauna of numerous rivers, on which the data are limited to just several basins. Small lakes are also in need of more research, the fish population in many of them still remaining unstudied.

Different fish species are unevenly studied. Data are the most complete for the basic commercial fishes. Non-commercial fishes, including widespread and abundant species remain practically unexplored. Data on rare species are too limited. Insufficient coverage by ichthyological studies of a great number of waterbodies, and the lack of data on the distribution and biology of many fish species generate considerable difficulties in conservation planning and implementation.

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© Sergey Anatsky, 2001-2012