, Volume 40, Issue 2, pp 107-124

Biological effects monitoring of the North Sea employing fish embryological data

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Abstract

Using the reproductive capacity of fish appears to be a suitable approach for risk assessment in the aquatic environment since fish are a typical representative thereof and in addition they are of considerable societal value. Generally the early embryonic stages are considered to be one of the most sensitive parts of a fish's life cycle. A method has been developed to use the state of health of live, naturally spawned fish embryos from plankton samples for biological effects monitoring. During the years 1985–1987 in the southern North Sea and in 1991–1992 in the whole of the North Sea fish eggs were sampled from surface waters and examined for developmental abnormalities. Elevated embryo malformation rates were detected in the plume of the major rivers Elbe and Rhine as well as along the eastern coast of England. Occurring malformations are thought to be pollution-related and may be used to define areas of environmental deterioration. The method is discussed in view of its suitability for biological effects monitoring using malformations in fish embryos as biomarkers.