Perca fluviatilis Linnaeus, 1758

Common Name: Eurasian perch

Synonyms and Other Names:

European perch, redfin perch, river perch, Perca fluviatilus Linnaeus, 1758, Perca helvetica Gronow, 1854, Perca italica Cuvier, 1828, Perca vulgaris Schaeffer, 1761



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Identification: Eurasian perch is a predatory freshwater fish. The body is laterally compressed, ovate, and covered with small scales (Thorpe 1977). Its body is olive green to gray on the dorsal surface, green to silver on the sides, and silvery-white on the ventral surface. It has six or more dark vertical bands across the sides, and a distinct blotch at the rear of the first dorsal fin. There is a defined dorsal hump to the rear of the head. The gill covers consist of a broad, flat spine. There are distinct bright reddish-orange colouring of the pelvic and anal fins, as well as the lower half of the tail. Anal fin is short with 7–10 rays, and anal spines are large and well developed. The swim bladder is well developed. This species has 36–43 vertebrae.


Size: 8.2–40.0 cm total length


Native Range: Ponto-Caspian basin (U.S. EPA 2008). Baltic Sea. Eurasian perch is native to most of Europe, except for Spain, Southern Italy, and Greece (Welcomme 1988).

Nonindigenous Occurrences:  Eurasian perch has been introduced to Australia (Welcomme 1988), China, Cyprus, Italy (Bianco and Ketmaier 2001), Morocco, New Zealand (Welcomme 1988), Spain, Portugal (Banha et al. 2015), and South Africa. It is stocked in Turkey (Coad 1996). It was introduced to Ireland hundreds of years ago.


This species is not currently in the Great Lakes region but may be elsewhere in the US. See the point map for details.

Ecology: Eurasian perch is a eurythermal fish that inhabits clear rivers and lakes. Eurasian perch is a visually oriented predator; thus, it requires habitat with clear water and good light conditions to forage (Granqvist and Mattila 2004). As such, feeding rates decrease as water transparency decreases (Estlander et al. 2015). This species is found throughout the water column, as individuals undergo diel migration into deep hypoxic waters to avoid large predators and as an opportunity to forage abundant zooplankton (Vejrik et al. 2016).  It is a social fish, so it often occurs in shoals (Pinnock 1823).

Eurasian perch has broad environmental tolerances and is a very adaptable species. Some populations are andramous in their native range, migrating to fresher waters during winter to lessen metabolic stress (Christensen et al. 2021). It can inhabit freshwater and brackish waters but cannot tolerate high salinities (Ložys 2004). Eurasian perch acclimated to brackish conditions can tolerate salinity up to around 17.5‰, but those acclimated to freshwater are limited to around 10‰ (Christensen et al. 2019). Eggs successfully hatch at salinities of 4–12‰ with no significant differences in viability (Christensen et al. 2016). It has a broad tolerance to pH, inhabiting both highly acidic (pH 3.9–5.0) and non-acidic (pH ≥6.0) lakes (Heibo and Vøllestad 2002; Volta et al. 2016). Eurasian perch is considered eurythermal, and can tolerate temperatures between 0–31°C (Thorpe 1977; Toner and Rougeot 2008). It is estimated to have a thermal tolerance limit of ~34°C (Sandblom et al. 2016) and can tolerate dissolved oxygen levels of 1.3—13.5 mg/L (Toner and Rougeot 2008).

Eurasian perch reproduce once per year (March–June), and have been estimated to produce 1,910–157,594 eggs per female (Jansen 1996; Lauer et al. 2005; Pedicillo et al. 2008). Both yellow perch (Perca flavescens) and Eurasian perch lay their eggs as part of a gelatinous, accordion-like skein reaching up to 2m in length (Scott and Crossman 1973). The skein is draped over woody debris and vegetation, and is believed to deter predators, stabilize and help oxygenate the eggs, and promote fertilization (Treasurer 1983; Newsome and Tompkins 1985; Reyes et al. 1992). The juveniles require at least 160 days in water temperatures under 8°C to mature, typically reaching maturity at 2–3 years. This species often lives for around 7 years (Saygin et al. 2016) and for a maximum of 22 years (Beverton and Holt 1959).

After hatching, larvae migrate to the pelagic zone to forage on zooplankton (Granqvist and Mattila 2004). As larvae develop (~50 mm TL), they shift to feeding on benthic macroinvertebrates (Closs et al. 2003) and small fish (Evtimova et al. 2015). At larger sizes (~250 mm TL), Eurasian perch exhibits cannibalism on smaller individuals, which might drive population dynamics (Treasurer 1993; Jacobson et al. 2019). Eurasian perch also preys on other fish, including rudd (Scardinius erythrophthalmus), bream (Abramis brama) (Yazicioglu et al. 2016; Adamel et al. 2019). In its native range in Finland, Eurasian perch maintains a keystone predator role on macroinvertebrates in boreal lakes (Nurminen et al. 2018). Its adapted feeding behavior (diel activity patterns and variable habitat use) allow it to thrive in both mesotrophic and hypereutrophic lakes (Jacobsen et al. 2015) and can be essential for early life stage survival (Sajdlová et al. 2018). Eurasian perch is consumed by piscivores, including pike (Esox lucius), pikeperch (Sander lucioperca), Wels catfish (Silurus glanis) (Pavlovic et al. 2015) and cormorants (Veneranta et al. 2020).


Means of Introduction: Perca fluviatilis has a moderate probability of introduction to the Great Lakes (Confidence level: High).

Potential pathway(s) of introduction: Trans-oceanic shipping (ballast water)

Models developed by Kolar and Lodge (2002) predict that Perca fluviatilis will be introduced to the Great Lakes from the Ponto-Caspian basin by transoceanic shipping. Perca fluviatilis may be taken up by ballast water and survive in ballast tank environments. This species occurs in waters that have direct trade connections with the Great Lakes, such as the Baltic Sea (Ložys 2004, NBIC 2009). It is considered a eurythermal fish and can tolerate temperatures between 4-31°C (Toner and Rougeot 2008), but becomes stressed between 23-26°C (Lehtonen 1996). It occurs in waters with oxygen levels of 1.3 to 13.5 mg/L (Toner and Rougeot 2008). However, Perca fluviatilis cannot tolerate high salinities, so its survival in ballast tanks environments may be limited. It can inhabit brackish waters of the Aral and Baltic Sea, up to salinities of 10 ppt (Ložys 2004), and can survive salinities of 13 ppt at water temperatures of 12-15°C. Larvae cannot tolerate salinities greater than 9.6 ppt (Lehtonen 1996). Ballast water exchange regulations requiring flushing with full strength sea water of 35 ppt salinity may substantially limit the introduction of Perca fluviatilis to the Great Lakes. Perca fluviatilis may be introduced to the Great Lakes via ships declaring “No Ballast on Board” (NOBOB), which are exempt from ballast water exchange. The majority of ships entering the Great Lakes are NOBOB vessels and 43% of these ships contain residual water with less than 10 ppt salinity (NOAA Final Report 2005). In the study, the temperature of the residual water from the vessels sampled ranged from -0.7 to 23.9°C; thus Perca fluviatilis is likely to survive the salinity and temperature of the NOBOB ballast water on some vessels. 

As a prized freshwater angling species, Perca fluviatilis has been introduced to a number of countries (ISSG 2005). US EPA (2008) suggests that there is a high risk that Perca fluviatilis will be introduced to the Great Lakes region as a sport fish. Perca fluviatilis does not currently occur near waters connected to the Great Lakes basin. It is not known to hitchhike on ships or recreational gear. It is not stocked, cultured, or sold in the Great Lakes region. It may survive several hours out of water if packed in dry straw (Pinnock 1820).


Status: Not established in North America, including the Great Lakes.

Perca fluviatilis has a high probability of establishment if introduced to the Great Lakes (Confidence level: Moderate).

Eurasian perch occurs in Australia, which has a similar climate to most of the US, except for the Desert Southwest (USFWS Risk Summary 2012). Eurasian perch has a somewhat broad physiological tolerance. It is likely able to overwinter in the Great Lakes. This species is known to overwinter in Lake Constance, Germany, at temperatures between 4°–6°C, but may experience depletion of lipid reserves and post-spawning mortality as a result of overwintering (Eckmann 2004). Eurasian perch requires clear waters with a considerable level of light penetration to forage effectively (Granqvist and Mattila 2004). High nutrient levels and turbidity may be detrimental to the growth and survival of this species. It is predicted by Lehtonen (1996) that increased temperatures due to climate change will result in Eurasian perch spawning later in autumn and hatching earlier. In addition, it is expected that larvae will be smaller and will be more vulnerable to possible predators. Juveniles are predicted to grow to a larger size after their first summer due to warmer water temperatures. In contrast, Eurasian perch reach sexual maturity earlier in the southern hemisphere (non-native range) relative to the northern hemisphere (Morgan et al. 2002), likely due to warmer temperatures and greater prey availability. The shift of Eurasian perch to piscivory also begins earlier in the southern hemisphere, increasing its establishment success (Wedderburn et al. 2016). A climate change case study in Curonian lagoon, Lithuania revealed that European perch preferred brackish water (salinity 3–6‰) over freshwater and warmer water (18°C) over cooler water (12°C), but had no change in growth rate between water conditions (Dainys et al. 2019). Further, across 52 boreal European lakes fish biomass production decreased as temperature increased from 16 to 22°C and lake color darkened (van Dorst et al. 2019). Higher temperatures may constrict oxygen uptake in larger individuals, promoting smaller body sizes in warming waters (Christensen et al. 2020).

Eurasian perch is carnivorous and feeds on a wide variety of foods including zooplankton, insect larvae, crustaceans, and small fish (Toner and Rougeot 2008). Larvae feed on algae and zooplankton. It is likely that this species will find an appropriate food source in the Great Lakes. In its native range, Eurasian perch exhibits interspecific competition for food with the invasive ruffe, Gymnocephalus cernua (L.)(Erkmann 2004; Schleuter 2007) which also occurs as a non-native in the Great Lakes. Both species are benthic feeders at some point of their development and both inhabit the littoral zone. Eurasian perch is a visually oriented predator and competition favors it in oligotrophic conditions. On the other hand, the ruffe is favored in more eutrophic conditions and can feed in turbid environments. When ruffe is the superior competitor, there is a decline in the growth and yields of Eurasian perch.

If introduced into the Great Lakes, Eurasian perch will be likely prey for native piscivores, including pike. The extent to which these predators may suppress the establishment of Euraisan perch is unknown. In laboratory trials, Eurasian perch exhibited group defense behavior and were more resistant to predation by pike than Amur sleeper (Perccottus glenii) (Smirinov et al. 2019). In aquarium experiments, Eurasian perch adapted its habitat use to avoid that of pike and ruffe, both of which are potential predators and competitors of Eurasian perch (Henseler et al. 2020).

Eurasian perch has reproductive traits that could support its establishment in the Great Lakes. It has an average relative fecundity of102,000 eggs/kg of body weight which is comparable to a similar species native to the Great Lakes, Perca flavescens (79,000–223,000 eggs/kg) (Sheri and Power 1969). Both perch species’ egg strands are generally considered unpalatable biological material, thus making them resistant to predation (Vejrik et al. 2017).

Kolar and Lodge (2002) developed models that predicted that Eurasian perch has a high risk for establishment, will spread quickly, and will be a nuisance in the Great Lakes. Eurasian perch has been introduced to several countries including Australia, South Africa, China, Cyprus, Ireland, Italy, Morocco, New Zealand, Spain, and South Africa for its reputation as an angling species (Welcomme 1988). Eurasian perch growth is stunted in some waters in Cyprus. In New Zealand, it is reproducing artificially. The introduction of Eurasian perch to South Africa is considered marginally successful. Non-native Eurasian perch successfully colonized the mediterranean Lake Skadar within 35 years of introduction, and are the dominant fish in littoral habitats in both the northern and southern parts of the lake (Mrdak et al. 2018).

In Australia, Eurasian perch tends to outcompete native species (Welcomme 1988). It is a potential competitor with other fish that feed on invertebrates and small fish including Great Lakes native fish, such as brook trout, lake whitefish, and bluegill (Thorpe 1977). New South Wales, Australia considers Eurasian perch a noxious fish due to their ability to eliminate other fish species and for their negative impacts on recreational fisheries (NSWDPI 2012).


Great Lakes Impacts:
Summary of species impacts derived from literature review. Click on an icon to find out more...

EnvironmentalSocioeconomicBeneficial



Perca fluviatilis has the potential for high environmental impact if introduced to the Great Lakes.

Eurasian perch is a carrier of the epizootic haematopoietic necrosis (EHN) virus. In Australia, the EHN virus carried by Eurasian perch may have resulted in declines of the native Macquarie perch (Macquaria australasica), silver perch (Bidyanus bidyanus), Murray cod (Maccullochella peelii), and mountain galaxias (Galaxias olidus) (Lintermans 1991; NSWDPI 2012). In a laboratory study, individuals carrying the EHN virus and viral haemorrhagic septicaemia virus (VHSV) had high rates (>90%) of survival and are thought to be resistant to the the fatal effects of these diseases (Pascoli et al. 2015). Further, Eurasian perch exposed to EHNV in the laboratory prior to release into an infected water body showed increased resistance to contracting the virus and to mortality (Becker et al. 2016). Disease resistance may be attributed to the high genetic diversity of some Eurasian perch populations and could help limit disease spread to other species (Faulks and Ostman 2016).

Eurasian perch can carry Perch rhabdovirus (Wahli et al. 2015; Caruso et al. 2019) which has caused major losses in the aquaculture of European perch (Dorson et al. 1984, Betts et al. 2003) and also infects grayling fry (Thymallus thymallus) (Gadd et al. 2013). A list of pathogens that infected Eurasian perch in a recirculating aquaculture system can be found in Rupp et al. (2019).

Eurasian perch can potentially compete with native species for zooplankton, macroinvertebrates, and fish (Closs et al. 2003). Eurasian perch is a strong competitor for invertebrates with the common goldeneye duck (Bucephala clangula) (Nummi et al. 2016). This species is said to compete for food and space with the Murray cod and golden perch (Macquaria ambigua) (Lintermans et al. 1990; Wedderburn et al. 2015). In New Zealand, Eurasian perch suppressed populations of a native fish, the common bully (Gobiomorphus cotidianus), by direct predation (Closs et al. 2003). Physical removal of Eurasian perch from ponds resulted in an increased abundance of the common bully. It has been suggested that Eurasian perch competition is responsible for the local extinction of the rare mud minnow, Galaxiella munda (NSWDPI 2012). It has been reported that Eurasian perch preyed on native pygmy perch (Edlia vittata) in Australia, negatively impacting their populations (Arthington and McKenzie 1997). It is suspected that Eurasian perch negatively affects native fish populations by preying on vulnerable Ewen’s pygmy perch, Nanoperca variegata, vulnerable Yarra pygmy perch, Edelia obscura, the vulnerable dwarf Galaxia, Galaxias pusilla, and juveniles of Macquarie perch. Populations of the southern pygmy perch (Nannoperca australis) suffered greatly from predation by invasive species such as Eurasian perch (NSWDPI 2015).

Invasions of Eurasian perch may alter food web dynamics. In the Vír Reservoir, Czech Republic, the high abundance of young-of-year Eurasian perch decreased Daphnia spp. size and abundance, resulting in the poor nutritional conditions of bream. The lack of Daphnia spp. also initiated a shift in Eurasian perch to forced piscivory of bream and common carp  (Vejrik et al. 2016).

Perca fluviatilis has the potential for moderate socio-economic impact if introduced to the Great Lakes.

Eurasian perch may prey on native species and trout, negatively affecting recreational fisheries. Within a 72-hour period, Eurasian perch eliminated 20,000 newly released rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss)  fry from a reservoir in south-western Australia (NSWDPI 2012). In Italy, Eurasian perch is host to the digenean trematode, Clinostomum complanatum, which is responsible for Halzoun syndrome in humans who consume raw or undercooked fish (Menconi et al. 2020).

Perca fluviatilis has the potential for high beneficial impact if introduced to the Great Lakes.

Eurasian perch is valued as an important fish species for aquaculture, fisheries, and recreation (Setälä et al. 1996; Toner and Rougeot 2008). In Europe, Eurasian perch are a valuable commercial and recreational freshwater fish species (Vainikka et al., 2012; Heerman et al. 2013). It is one of the most economically important fish species for freshwater and Baltic sea fisheries in Estonia (OECD 2009). Gelatin extracted from Eurasian perch has a high gel strength, melting point, and water-holding and fat-binding capacity making it a potential replacement for mammalian gelatin in the food industry (Hue et al. 2017).

Eurasian perch were used as a biocontrol agent for the topmouth gudgeon (Pseudorasbora parva) in England. Predation pressure by Eurasian perch continually suppressed abundance of topmouth gudgeon and was significantly more effective than physical removal methods (Davies and Britton 2015). In their native range (Musov reservoir), Eurasian perch shifted their predation from cyprinids to the recently introduced non-native tubenose goby, potentially limiting invasion success (Vseticková et al. 2018). Eurasian perch were also used as a successful biocontrol agent of non-native Amur sleeper in four small Lithianian lakes (Rakauskas et al. 2019).


Management: Regulations (pertaining to the Great Lakes region)

Federally banned in the United States from import and trade (including all hybrids) under the Lacey Act. Perca fluviatilis is prohibited in Minnesota, making it a misdemeanor to possess, import, purchase, transport, or introduce the species in the state (§ 84D.07). In Ohio, it is listed as invasive and is unlawful for any person to possess, import or sell live individuals of this species (Ohio Administrative Code 1501:31-19-01).

Note: Check federal, state/provincial, and local regulations for the most up-to-date information.

Control

Biological
There are no known biological control methods for this species.

Physical
Repeated removal by netting successfully suppressed Eurasian perch biomass in a small lagoon (7.5 ha) with one or two intensive removal events per year timed with spawning (McEwan et al. 2019).

Chemical
There are no known chemical control methods specific to this species. General piscicides (such as rotenone) may be used for control, but expect significant kill of non-target species.

Note: Check state/provincial and local regulations for the most up-to-date information regarding permits for control methods. Follow all label instructions.


Remarks: Individual juvenile Eurasian perch can be identified based on number, position, and shape of their stripes (Hirsh and Eckmann 2015).


References (click for full reference list)


Author: Bartos, A., E. Baker, J. Shayota, and J. Li.


Contributing Agencies:
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Revision Date: 8/13/2021


Citation for this information:
Bartos, A., E. Baker, J. Shayota, and J. Li., 2024, Perca fluviatilis Linnaeus, 1758: U.S. Geological Survey, Nonindigenous Aquatic Species Database, Gainesville, FL, and NOAA Great Lakes Aquatic Nonindigenous Species Information System, Ann Arbor, MI, https://nas.er.usgs.gov/queries/greatlakes/FactSheet.aspx?Species_ID=3636&Potential=Y&Type=2, Revision Date: 8/13/2021, Access Date: 5/21/2024

This information is preliminary or provisional and is subject to revision. It is being provided to meet the need for timely best science. The information has not received final approval by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and is provided on the condition that neither the USGS nor the U.S. Government shall be held liable for any damages resulting from the authorized or unauthorized use of the information.