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MESL Marine Pollution Assessments

MESL investigates non-nuclear pollution to better understand the temporal and spatial distribution of contaminants, identify hot spots, establish a permanent regional monitoring network, provide sufficient data for possible management alternatives, elucidate the factors controlling pollution and assess health hazards and risks.

Within this framework, MESL has assessed the occurrence of non-radioactive pollutants in the following regions:

  • Asia-Pacific Region
  • Baltic Sea
  • Black Sea
  • Caspian Sea
  • Central American Region
  • The Gulf and Gulf of Oman
  • Mediterranean Sea

    • Asia-Pacific Region

      Tropical coastal lagoon
      in the Asia-Pacific Region

      Field surveys of pesticides and industrial chemicals residues have been carried out by the MESL in coastal regions of Vietnam and the Philippines, in areas where fisheries and fish farming are the vital sustainability of the region.

      • Organic contaminants in the marine environment of Manila Bay, Philippines. Arch Environ Contam Toxicol 57, 348358, (2009).
      • Agrochemical and polychlorobyphenyl (PCB) residues in the Mekong River delta, Vietnam. Marine pollution bulletin, 56, 1476-1485, (2008).
      • Occurrence of butyltin compounds in marine sediments and bilvalves from three harbour areas (Saigon, Da Nang and HaiPong) in Vietnam. Appl. Organometal. Chem. 19, 811-818, (2005).
      • Chlorinated pesticides and PCBs in sediments and molluscs from freshwater canals in the Hanoi region. Environ. Poll., 112, 311-320, (2001).
      • Organochlorine pesticides and PCBs in the Red River Delta, North Vietnam. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 36, 742-749 (1998).
      • Organochlorine pesticides and PCBs along the coast of north Vietnam. The Science of the Total Environment 237/238, 363-371, (1999).

      Baltic Sea

      Sediment sampling at the
      munitions dumpsite in
      the Gotland Basin
      Baltic Sea

      The IAEA-MEL in collaboration with Lithuania conducted a national monitoring study to assess the occurrence of arsenic derived from the chemical munitions dumpsite in the Gotland Basin. Although there was evidence of slightly elevated arsenic content in sediments near the weapons dumpsite, arsenic concentrations were nevertheless quite low relative to other investigations in the Baltic and North Seas.

      • Arsenic in sediments from the southeastern Baltic Sea. Environ. Poll. 144, 855-861, (2006)

      Black Sea

      Coastal area from the
      Black Sea

      As part of its programme of technical assistance to UNEP, MESL staff conducted an assessment of pollution in the Black Sea and participated in the design of a Global Environmental Facility (GEF) programme for the environmental protection and management of the area. The work included extensive missions to all the Coastal States (Turkey, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russian Federation and Georgia).

      • The use of steroid markers to assess sewage contamination of the Black Sea. Mar. Pol. Bul. 50, 310-318, (2005)
      • Persistent organochlorine residues in sediments from the Black Sea. Mar. Poll. Bull. , 44: 122-133, (2002)
      • Petroleum and PAH contamination of the Black Sea. Mar. Poll. Bull, 44, 48-62, (2002)

      Caspian Sea

      Oil derricks in Baku Bay

      The Caspian Environment Programme (CEP) is an intergovernmental programme of the five Caspian littoral states, namely Azerbaijan, Iran, Kazakhstan, the Russian Federation and Turkmenistan. MESL collaborated with CEP on a GEF UNDP/UNOPS contaminant-screening project in the Caspian Sea. An assessment of marine pollution was completed, producing some important and hitherto unknown findings that influence environmental management in the Caspian Sea region. Most notably, numerous locations in the coastal zone of Azerbaijan and Iran were contaminated with DDT related compounds. Anthropogenic activities, notably mining, have enhanced the metal burdens in the sediments of the Caspian Sea, apparently explaining hot spots for copper and zinc in Azerbaijan and Iran. MESL continues to assist CEP with the implementation of the project, particularly through the provision of expert advice and regional training programmes.

      • Aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons in coastal Caspian Sea sediments. Marine pollution bulletin, 48, 44-60, (2004)
      • Organochlorinated compounds in Caspian Sea sediments. Marine pollution bulletin, 48, 30-43, (2004)
      • An Assessment of Metal Contamination in Coastal Sediments of the Caspian Sea. Marine Pollution Bulletin 48, 61-77, (2004)
      • The Caspian Sea: a microcosm for environmental science and international cooperation. Marine Pollution Bulletin 48, 26-29, (2004)

      Central American Region

      Coastal area of the
      Caribbean Sea

      MESL, in collaboration with Mexico and Nicaragua, carried out research programmes to investigate the distribution of horticulture related pesticide residues in tropical lagoon systems extremely important for fisheries. More recently, MESL also assisted Cuba in the marine pollution assessment of the Cienfuegos Bay. The information obtained through these joint research programmes was fundamental in formulating recommendations for improving the integrated coastal zone management in the Central American Region.

      • Inputs and sources of hydrocarbons in sediments from Cienfuegos Bay, Cuba. Marine pollution bulletin, DOI: 10.1016, (2009)
      • Pesticide and PCB residues in the aquatic ecosystems of Laguna de Terminos, a protected area of the coast of Campeche, Mexico, Chemosphere, 74, 988-995, (2009)
      • Ecological risk assessment of PCBs and other organic contaminant residues in Laguna de Terminos, Mexico. Ecotoxicology, 18, 403-416, (2009)
      • Toxaphene residues from cotton fields in soils and in the coastal environment of Nicaragua. Chemosphere 53, 627-636 (2003)
      • Distribution, Fate and Effects of Pesticide Residues in Tropical Coastal Lagoons of Northwestern Mexico. Environmental Technology 23, 1257-1270, (2002)
      • Ecological risk assessment of pesticide residues in coastal lagoons of Nicaragua. J. Environ. Monit., 4: 778-787, (2002)
      • Chlorinated Hydrocarbons in Coastal Lagoons of the Pacific Coast of Nicaragua Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology 36, 132-139, (1999)

      The Gulf and Gulf of Oman

      Coastal area of the
      Gulf region

      Marine pollutants are of particular concern in the Gulf region because of its fragile ecosystem and the high volume of maritime traffic. In response to requests from Member States in the region, MESL and the Regional Organization for the Protection of the Marine Environment (ROPME) investigated several non-radioactive pollutants in the Gulf region. During a 2006 oceanographic cruise, the levels of trace metals, petroleum hydrocarbons and organic contaminants in marine sediments were examined. MESL staff determined that current levels of those pollutants pose no immediate public health threat to the region.

      • Temporal survey of petroleum hydrocarbons, organochlorinated compounds and heavy metals in benthic marine organisms from Dhofar, southern Oman, Marine Pollution Bulletin, 54, 339-367,(2007).
      • Aliphatic and aromatic hydrocarbons in marine biota and coastal sediments from the Gulf and the Gulf of Oman. Marine Pollution Bulletin 50, 1619-1633, (2005).
      • Chlorinated hydrocarbons in marine biota and coastal sediments from the Gulf and Gulf of Oman. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 50, 835-849, (2005).
      • Distribution of Metals in Marine Biota and Coastal Sediments in the Gulf and Gulf of Oman. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 49, 410-424, (2004).
      • Assessment of Organotin Contamination in Marine Sediments and Biota from The Gulf and Adjacent Region. Marine Pollution Bulletin 46, 401-409, (2003).

      Mediterranean Sea

      Boats mooring in the Port
      of Monaco where a survey
      of antifoulants was

      MESL has conducted field surveys in the Mediterranean Sea to assess the occurrence of organotin compounds and several other antifoulants in ports and marinas. Other surveys on persistent organic pollutants including a PCB mass balance assessment were performed for the Western Mediterranean Sea.

      • A survey of antifoulants in sediments from ports and marinas along the French Mediterranean coast. Marine pollution bulletin, 56, 1943-1948, (2008).
      • Heavy metal concentrations in the sea surface microlayer and associated neuston in NW Mediterranean waters. Rapp. Com. Int. Mer Médit. 37, 196, (2004).
      • PCBs in the Western Mediterranean. Temporal trends and mass balance assessment. Deep Sea Research II 44, 907-928, (1997)
      • Contamination of Mediterranean coastal waters from TBT and IRGAROL 1051 used in antifouling paints. Mar. Poll. Bull., 32, 335-341, (1996).
      • Levels and trends of PCBs, chlorinated pesticides and petroleum hydrocarbons in mussels from the NW Mediterranean coast: comparison of concentrations in 1973/1974 and 1988/1989. The Science of the Total Environment 237/238, 57-65, (1999)