The objective of the present study was to investigate the bioavailability and the configurational isomer distribution of the carotenoid astaxanthin (AST) in human plasma after ingestion of wild (Oncorhynchus spp.) and aquacultured (Salmo salar) salmon. In a randomised and double-blind trial, twenty-eight healthy men consumed 250 g wild or aquacultured salmon daily for 4 weeks which provided 5 μg AST/g salmon flesh. The plasma AST concentrations as well as the isomer distribution were measured by HPLC using a reversed and a chiral stationary phase. After 6 d of intervention with salmon, plasma AST concentrations reached a plateau of 39 nmol/l after consumption of wild salmon and of 52 nmol/l after administration of aquacultured salmon. At days 3, 6, 10 and 14 – but not at day 28 – the AST concentrations in human plasma were significantly greater after ingestion of aquacultured salmon. After administration of wild salmon, the (3S,3′S) isomer predominated in plasma (80 %), whereas after intake of aquacultured salmon the meso form (3R,3′S) prevailed (48 %). Therefore, the AST isomer pattern in human plasma resembles that of the ingested salmon. However, after consumption of both wild and aquacultured salmon for 28 d the relative proportion of the (3S,3′S) isomer was slightly higher and the (3R,3′R) form lower in human plasma compared with the isomer distribution in salmon flesh. A selective process of isomer absorption could be responsible for the observed differences in the relative proportions of the (3S,3′S) and (3R,3′R) isomers in human plasma compared with salmon flesh.