Anemia in salmon aquaculture: Scotland as a case study

A.R. Currie, D. Cockerill, M. Diez-Padrisa, H. Haining, F.L. Henriquez, B. Quinn*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)
167 Downloads (Pure)


Anemia in salmonid aquaculture is a recognized blood disorder resulting from the reduction of hemoglobin concentration and/or erythrocyte count. Because of sub-optimal oxygen supply to the tissues, as a negative impact of anemia fish will experience reduced growth and poor health. This health challenge may be linked with several factors including anthropogenic changes in the marine environment, infectious etiology (viral, bacterial, and parasitic), nutritional deficiencies, or hemorrhaging. From the mid-late summer of 2017 to 2019, Scottish salmon farming companies began to report the occurrence of anemic events in open-net marine sites. At that time, the industry had little understanding of the pathogenesis and possible mechanisms of anemia and limited the ability to formulate effective mitigation strategies. Clinical examination of fish raised suspicion of anemia and this was confirmed by generating a packed cell volume value by centrifugation of a microhematocrit tube of whole anticoagulated blood. Company health team members, including vets and biologists, reported discoloration of gills and local hemorrhages. This paper reviews various commercially significant cases and lesser-known cases of anemia in cultured salmonid species induced by various biological factors. The current methods available to assess hematology are addressed and some future methods that could be adopted in modern day fish farming are identified. An account of the most recent anemic event in Scottish farmed Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is presented and discussed as a case study from information provided by two major Scottish salmon producers. The percent of total marine sites (n = 80) included in this case study, that reported with suspected or clinical anemia covering the period mid-late summer 2017 to 2019, was between 1 and 13%. The findings from this case study suggest that anemia experienced in most cases was regenerative and most likely linked to blood loss from the gills.

Original languageEnglish
Article number737313
Number of pages9
Early online date14 Aug 2021
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2022


  • anemia
  • aquaculture
  • Atlantic salmon
  • hematology


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