Using the surface plate technique, the population level of aerobic bacteria, occurring in the gills of Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.), was determined to be approximately 3 x 10(4) g(-1). Of 100 isolates investigated, 58 were gram-negative. Out of the 42 gram-positive isolates, 26 belonged to the carnobacteria, of which ten were further identified on the basis of 16S rDNA sequence analysis and AFLP fingerprinting. All were identified as Carnobacterium piscicola-like. These carnobacteria strains were also screened for their ability to produce growth inhibitory compounds active against the fish pathogens Aeromonas salmonicida subsp. salmonicida, Vibrio anguillarum and Vibrio salmonicida. Nine out of the ten C. piscicola isolates tested strongly inhibited growth of the three pathogens.