Two systems for transporting live salmon (Salmo salar) were compared in terms of their effects on blood variables, muscle pH and rigor index: an 'open system' well-boat with recirculated sea water at 13.5°C and a stocking density of 107 kg/m3 during an eight-hour journey, and a 'closed system' well-boat with water chilled from 16.7 to 2.1°C and a stocking density of 243.7 kg/m3 during a seven-hour journey. Groups of 10 fish were sampled at each of four stages: in cages at the farm, in the well-boat after loading, in the well-boat after the journey and before unloading, and in the processing plant after they were pumped from the resting cages. At each sampling, the fish were stunned and bled by gill cutting. Blood samples were taken to measure lactate, osmolality, chloride, sodium, cortisol and glucose, and their muscle pH and rigor index were measured at death and three hours later. In the open system well-boat, the initial muscle pH of the fish decreased at each successive stage, and at the final stage they had a significantly lower initial muscle pH and more rapid onset of rigor than the fish transported on the closed system well-boat. At the final stage all the blood variables except glucose were significantly affected in the fish transported on both types of well-boat.