Institute of Fisheries Ecology

Herwigstraße 31
27572 Bremerhaven
Phone: + 49 471 94460 201
Fax: + 49 471 94460 199

Monitoring of hazardous substances in marine biota


 (c) Thünen-Institut

Monitoring of the contamination of marine fish by hazardous substances

Why are marine organisms like fish and shellfish so suitable to detect hazardous substances in the marine environment?

Background and Objective

In the seventies of the last century the seas were threatened to become the dump for waste containing hazardous substances. To prevent this, regional conventions for the protection of the marine environment became active in monitoring, taking measures and controlling the compliance  to improve the status. For this purpose, water, sediment and marine biota are analysed on concentrations of hazardous substances. Biota are particularly suitable for measuring low concentrations of many non polar compounds due to the ability to accumulate these substances.


Our research cruises are taking place every year in late summer, when the variability of biological and influencing environmental conditions is low between years. Fish samples are taken on board of our own research vessels and are analysed later in land based labopratories on selected organic substances, metals and radionuclides. The resulting data are stored in national and international data centres, processed and assessed by expert groups of OSPAR, HELCOM and ICES, scientists of the Thünen-Institute are participating in. The assessments shall also indicate whether in relation to hazardous substances the good environmental status, as defined in the EU Marine Strategy Framework Dirctive (MSFD) has been reached or still not.

Data and Methods

Procedures and methods we are using for sampling, analysis, calculatiopn and assessment are documented in guidelines, monitoring manuals and literature, and are revised  when necessary to reflect the actul status of science and technique. The processed data are open accessible via internet by accepting general rules regarding copyrights

Our Research Questions

Will we suceed by integrating analysis of  chemical, biological and fishery data to contribute to an integrated assessment of the environmental status of the seas and to detect more about correlations between reasons and effects?

Are we also including  in our programme those substances, besides the well known "old" ones,  which actually may have  the greatest impact? Or need we to revise our lists of investigated  substances and effects?

Preliminary Results

The results are published as anually reports, fact sheets or status reports, the latter summarising a certain period of years, and are availabe via the websites of the national and international bodies (see links below)

Links and Downloads


Involved Thünen-Partners

Funding Body

  • Federal Ministry of Food und Agriculture (BMEL)
    (national, öffentlich)


Permanent task 1.2001 - 12.2023

More Information

Projekt type:
Project status: ongoing


Results 1 - 5 of 14

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  1. Aust M-O, Nogueira P (2021) 2.5.5 Fische und Produkte des Meeres und der Binnengewässer. In: Umweltradioaktivität und Strahlenbelastung : Jahresbericht 2018. Bonn: Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit (BMU), pp 71-75
  2. Aust M-O, Nogueira P (2021) 2.5.6 Fische und Wasserpflanzen in der Umgebung von Anlagen nach Atomgesetz. In: Umweltradioaktivität und Strahlenbelastung : Jahresbericht 2018. Bonn: Bundesministerium für Umwelt, Naturschutz und Reaktorsicherheit (BMU), p 75
  3. Weichert FG, Axén C, Förlin L, Inostroza PA, Kammann U, Welling A, Sturve J, Asker N (2021) A multi-biomarker study on Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar L.) affected by the emerging Red Skin Disease in the Baltic Sea. J Fish Dis 44(4):429-440, DOI:10.1111/jfd.13288
    pdf document (limited accessibility) 1330 kb
  4. Kammann U, Aust M-O, Siegmund M, Schmidt N, Straumer K, Lang T (2021) Deep impact? Is mercury in dab (Limanda limanda) a marker for dumped munition? Results from munition dump site Kolberger Heide (Baltic Sea). Environ Monit Assessm 193:788, DOI:10.1007/s10661-021-09564-3
    pdf document (limited accessibility) 1248 kb
  5. Nogueira P, Hiller M, Aust M-O (2019) Monte Carlo simulation of dose coefficients for a fish eye lens model exposed to monoenergetic electrons. J Environ Radioact 199-200:7-15, DOI:10.1016/j.jenvrad.2018.12.021

Results 1 - 5 of 14

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