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Diseases of Aquatic Organisms

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DAO 55:151-159 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/dao055151

Osmotic cataract causes reduced vision in wild Atlantic salmon postsmolts

Ellen Bjerkås1,*, Jens Christian Holst2, Inge Bjerkås1, Amund Ringvold3

1Norwegian School of Veterinary Science, PO Box 8146 Dep, 0033 Oslo, Norway
2Institute of Marine Research, PO Box 1870 Nordnes, 5817 Bergen, Norway
3Department of Ophthalmology, National Hospital, University of Oslo, 0027 Oslo, Norway

ABSTRACT: Osmotic cataracts were diagnosed in all of 191 Atlantic salmon Salmo salar L. postsmolts caught during 8 trawl hauls on the western side of the Vøringsplateau, Norwegian Sea, in June 2001. The changes varied from a hazy opacity in the anterior part of the lens to cataracts affecting the whole lens. Severely affected lenses appeared swollen and large vacuoles were visible in the opaque areas. Large vacuoles in otherwise clear lenses were diagnosed in 1 of 4 adult salmon examined. Histologically, widened sutures, vacuolation of lens epithelium and cortex, and proteinaceous lakes subjacent to the epithelium were the most frequent changes, while extensive cortical necroses and epithelial proliferation were seen in a few cases. UV-absorbance of the aqueous humor was determined and levels compared to plasma levels and also to levels in farmed Atlantic salmon of the same developmental stage. Wild salmon generally showed higher levels of protective factors than farmed fish. The osmotic type of cataract diagnosed leads to poor vision and is a potential cause of reduced survival in postsmolts. The cause of the cataracts could not be determined, but defective osmoregulation is suspected.

KEY WORDS: Salmon · Eye · Cataract · Osmotic cataracts · UV-absorbance · Salmo salar

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