Arctic char or Arctic charr (Salvelinus alpinus) is a cold-water fish in the Salmonidae family, native to Arctic, sub-Arctic and alpine lakes and coastal waters. It breeds in fresh water, and populations can be either landlocked or anadromous, migrating to the sea. No other freshwater fish is found as far north. For instance, it is the only species of fish in Lake Hazen, on Ellesmere Island in the Canadian Arctic. It is one of the rarest fish species in Britain, found only in deep, cold, glacial lakes, mostly in Scotland, and is at risk from acidification. It is also found in deep mountain lakes in England, Ireland and Wales such as the Lake District. In other parts of its range, such as Scandinavia, it is much more common, and is fished extensively. It is also common in the Alps, (particularly in Trentino and in the mountain part of Lombardy), where it can be found in lakes up to an altitude of 2,600 m (8,500 ft) above sea level, and in Iceland. In Siberia, it is known as golets and it has been introduced in lakes where it sometimes threatens less hardy endemic species, such as the small-mouth char and the long-finned char in Elgygytgyn Lake.
The Arctic char is closely related to both salmon and lake trout, and has many characteristics of both. Individual fish can weigh 20 lb (9.1 kg) or more with record-sized fish having been taken by angling in northern Canada, where it is known as iqaluk or tariungmiutaq in Inuktitut. Generally, whole market-sized fish are between 2 and 5 lb (0.91 and 2.3 kg). The flesh colour can range from a bright red to a pale pink.
Subspecies of Arctic char 
In North America, three subspecies of Salvelinus alpinus exist. S. a. erythrinus is native to almost all of Canada's northern coast. This subspecies is nearly always anadromous. S. a. oquassa, known as the Sunapee trout or the blueback trout, is native to eastern Quebec and northern New England, although it has been extirpated from most of its eastern United States range. S. a. oquassa is never anadromous. Taranets char and the dwarf Arctic char are both classified as S. a. taranetzi.
Arctic char are also found in Lake Pingualuit, a lake formed roughly 1.4 million years ago from an impact crater. Changing water levels are believed to have connected the lake with glacial runoff and surrounding streams and rivers, allowing char to swim upstream into the lake. Arctic char are the only fish found in the lake, and signs of fish cannibalism have been found.
Arctic char farming 
Research aimed at determining the suitability of Arctic char as a cultured species has been ongoing since the late 1970s. The Canadian government's Freshwater Institute of Fisheries and Oceans Canada at Winnipeg, Manitoba, and the Huntsman Marine Science Centre of New Brunswick, pioneered the early efforts in Canada. Arctic char is also farmed at least in Iceland, Estonia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, West Virginia, and Ireland.
Arctic char were first investigated because they were expected to have low optimum temperature requirements and would grow well at the cold water temperatures present in numerous areas of Canada. They could be an alternate species to rainbow trout and could provide producers with a different niche in the marketplace.
The initial research efforts concentrated on identifying the culture needs and performance characteristics of the species. The Freshwater Institute was responsible for distributing small numbers of char eggs to producers in Canada; these producers in return helped determine the suitability of char in a commercial setting. Commercial char breeding stocks have now been developed largely from these sources.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium "Seafood Watch" program has recently added farmed Arctic char as an environmentally sustainable Best Choice for consumers, stating: "Arctic char use only a moderate amount of marine resources for feed. In addition, Arctic char are farmed in land-based, closed systems that minimize the risk of escape into the wild."
Culinary profile 
Some people think that Arctic Char has a rich taste with a flavor profile somewhere between trout and salmon with a fat content close to that of sockeye salmon. The flesh ranges in color from light pink to deep red with moderately firm but fine flakes. The average commercial weight is 2 - 8 pounds. It is most often found on "white table cloth" fine dining restaurant menus.
- Cambridge Bay Arctic Char at Fisheries and Oceans Canada
- The Catastrophic Earth, Natural Disasters by Keller, E.A., R.H. Blodgett, and J.J. Clague. 2010.
- ARC | Mining Fresh Water for Aquaculture
- Seafood Watch Newsletter, August 2006, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Monterey, California, USA
- "Chef's Resources - Arctic Char Profile". Chefs-resources.com.
Further reading 
- World Conservation Monitoring Centre (1996). Salvelinus alpinus. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 2006-05-12.
- Froese, Rainer and Pauly, Daniel, eds. (2005). "Salvelinus alpinus" in FishBase. 10 2005 version.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Salvelinus alpinus|
- Information on farming Arctic char:This site deals with Arctic Char and farming the fish using land based farms. Gives a background and description of the species including its aquaculture history.
- Environmental concerns
- Articles presented at the International Conference on the Conservation and Management of Arctic Charr