The European eel Anguilla anguilla, a rapporteur of the chemical status for the Water Framework Directive?

Claude Belpaire, Geert Goemans

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    The Water Framework Directive recently (2006) proposed to monitor a selection of priority substances and to report on the chemical status of European water bodies. The final objective is the protection of aquatic life and human health. The majority of these substances are lipophilic, nevertheless it is proposed to monitor them in the water-phase. As there is serious concern about whether measurements of these lipophilic compounds in water will give results that will guarantee the protection of aquatic life, monitoring in biota seems to be more appropriate. The advantages of using the European eel (Anguilla anguilla) as a model for evaluating the chemical status within the WFD are discussed. A wide range of studies over Europe exists and has pinpointed various types of environmental contamination. Eel contaminant profiles seem to be a fingerprint of the contamination pressure of a specific site. This is illustrated with results from 12 years of contaminant monitoring in eel in Flanders, where the database comprises at present analyses of 2946 eels from 365 sites. From this database, reference values and quality classes for PCBs, OCPs and heavy metals in eel were deduced and are presented. The establishment of a harmonised, Europe-wide chemical monitoring programme of eels could enable three separate objectives to be addressed: (1) the evaluation of environmental health and chemical status, (2) the sanitary control of fisheries products within human food safety regulations, and (3) the monitoring of eel quality within the requirements of the international eel restoration plan. Because of high concentration of some contaminants in certain eel subpopulations and the ecotoxicological effects of these substances, achieving good chemical status of EU waters will directly be beneficial for restoration of eels stocks.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalVie et milieu (
    Issue number1980
    Pages (from-to)235-252
    Number of pages18
    Publication statusPublished - 2007

    Thematic list

    • Water Framework Directive
    • Fish

    EWI Biomedical sciences

    • B280-animal-ecology
    • B740-toxicology

    Taxonomic list

    • plants (Plantae)


    • aquatic management
    • monitoring network for policy support
    • Water Framework Directive

    Geographic list

    • Flanders


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