DAO 45:229-236 (2001)  -  doi:10.3354/dao045229

An epidemiological study of cataracts in seawater farmed Atlantic salmon Salmo salar

Cecilie Ersdal1,*, Paul J. Midtlyng2, Jorun Jarp1,**

1National Veterinary Institute, PO Box 8156 Dep., 0033 Oslo, Norway
2VESO, PO Box 8109 Dep., 0032 Oslo, Norway
*Present address: Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, PO Box 8146 Dep., 0033 Oslo, Norway **Corresponding author. E-mail:

Abstract: Cataracts in farmed Atlantic salmon have been known for many years, but the aetiology and importance of the disease have not been clarified. A cross-sectional field study of 51 cages of Atlantic salmon at 49 randomly selected sea sites was performed during the summer of 1998. The target population was spring and autumn entry groups of the 1997 generation salmon. Approximately 15 fish from each cage, altogether 777 fish, were autopsied by the same person. Each eye of the fish was scored for cataracts on a scale from 0 to 4 using an otoscope lamp with magnification. The weight and length of each fish were measured. The prevalence of cataracts was 83% and 79% in spring entry groups and autumn entry groups, respectively. The overall mean cataract index (mean score of both eyes) was 1.23, being significantly higher in the spring entry groups (1.36) than the autumn entry groups (0.85). The final results in the spring entry groups showed that the fish groups with higher weight at sea transfer also had a higher cataract index at inspection. The risk of development of cataracts varied significantly among the offspring from the 5 strains represented in the study. Fish from sites located in 2 counties in the southern part of Norway had a significantly higher cataract index than fish farmed in the northernmost county in the study. For the autumn entry groups none of the explanatory variables was significant. In the spring entry groups a significant negative relationship was observed between the cataract score and the weight of the fish at the time of inspection (PearsonĀ¹s r = -0.17), while the corresponding correlation for the autumn released groups was r = -0.10. Among the spring entry groups the average weight of the fish with the highest cataract score was estimated to about a third of the weight of the fish with no visible cataracts.

KEY WORDS: Cataracts · Epidemiology · Atlantic salmon · Risk factors

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