Institute of

Fisheries Ecology

Chemical Trace Analysis

Gaschromatograph (Agilent) with mass selective TOF Detector (Markes) (© Ulrike Kammann / Thünen Institut)

As a result of natural events and to most part anthropogenic activities, pollutants and xenobiotics are being released into the marine environment. Among these contaminants, besides a number of metals, there is a numbers of mainly man-made organic compounds that we are particularly interested in. As waste- or byproducts of manufacturing-, application- or disposal- processes, these compounds find their way into the environment and therefore - also into the sea. 

We focus on the monitoring of contaminants in fish from north- and Baltic sea to gain data and be able to evaluate the current situation and the temporal development of the environmental contamination. Since there are ten thousands of known hazardous contaminants in the marine environment, we select some of the most important agents for our analytical programs, guided by the recommendations by the international marine environment protection conventions.

In comparison to areas close to actual sources - in the sea, most contaminants tend to be present only in low concentrations due to dilution and dispersion. Fish as organisms living in these habitats, from the chemical analysts point of view, have the advantage that they accumulate lipophilic substances in their bodies. Therefore these substances can be measured in these matrices much easier than for example in the water. To learn about possible effects of hazardous contaminants on the health status of fish, it demands the cooperation of analytical chemists and biologists on the same individual (integrated assessment).

Every year, together with working group "fish diseases", we collect our samples in North- and Baltic Sea during our scientific cruises oft he FFS Walther Herwig III. These samples are then on board prepared for further investigations in our laboratories on land. Here we have access to high-performance systems for sample-processing and analyses such as atomic absorption spectrometers with solid samplers as well as gas chromatographs with electron capture detectors and mass-spectrometers.