Information on possible effects of pollution on fish life is reviewed with special emphasis to the North Sea. Concentrations of heavy metals are high in onshore waters, sediments and organisms. Offshore regions are considered to be not endangered. In estuaries concentrations of certain heavy metals are often surpassing thresholds, which have been experimentally demonstrated to produce sublethal effects on marine organisms. Also mussel culture areas had to be closed due to excess of cadmium contamination. Mercury in fillets of cod in the southern North Sea sometimes reaches 0.3 ppm representing 1/3 of the legal limit. Reductions of inputs are necessary due to the bioaccumulative and toxic potential of heavy metals. Organochlorine contamination of water, sediments and organisms is higher in the southern than in the northern North Sea. In offshore areas clearly elevated levels of PCB's, which are the dominating organochlorine compound in marine organisms, have been analyzed. At present only a minor fraction of total organochlorine residues accumulated in marine biota is analyzed. Margins between experimentally derived lethal levels and those occurring in marine biota are narrow suggesting that sublethal effects might occur. One of the special concerns in the context of organochlorine contamination has to be seen in the potential of these substances affecting the reproductive capacity of marine organisms. Reduction measures are urgently necessary and should include substances with bioaccumulative and toxicological potential, which are not presently included in Marine Monitoring Programmes. Impact of oil pollution is considered to be a regional problem, although especially in estuaries concentrations in the water column might be high. Input through oil platforms has led to local reductions in benthic communities. Measures have to be taken, to further reduce these inputs also in view to avoid contamination of fish in the vicinity of oil fields. Oxygen depletion in German and Danish coastal waters has been shown to be a severe degradation in coastal water quality resulting in significant impact on fish populations. Indications for large-scale avoidance reactions of low DO-areas and mortalities of fish and benthos organisms have been demonstrated. It is suspected that the low DO-situations are related to increased nutrients input and high phytoplankton production. Improvement of the situation can only be expected, if input of nutrients is reduced. Reasons for the occurrence of toxic plankton blooms are not understood. An intensified research is necessary, to avoid damage to fisheries and mariculture. Although activity of radionucleids in North Sea waters is increased due to input of radioactive material from La Hague and Sellafield reprocessing units, the present levels of activity are not considered to be a threat for marine life. The same holds for thermal pollution, which is, depending on the recipient area, expected to have only local effects. Sewage sludge dumping and discharge of untreated sewage introduce significant amounts of accompanying heavy metals, which can be expected to have a negative influence on the total metal budget of recipient waters. Nutrient input through sewage will exhibit only local effects. Dumping of wastes from titanium dioxide industry are suspected to be causally linked to the occurrence of increased prevalences of certain diseases of dab in the German Bight. Present management strategies should take account of the fact that through dumping of waste from titanium dioxide production significant quantities of heavy metal are introduced into the southern North Sea. Also the incineration of chemical wastes at sea should be reduced due to uncertainties concerning quantities and toxicity of incineration products and their potential impact on marine life. It is concluded that clear evidence exists for pollution impact in estuarine regions. Most of the major estuaries at the North Sea coast show benthos reductions, which can be related to water quality and it has to be assumed that areas of a sublethal effect are located in the vicinity of those areas of well demonstrated effects. They are of unknown size and attempts have to be undertaken to quantify areas of sublethal impact. The occurrence of fish diseases is interpreted as an expression of degraded water quality. Some of the diseases detected can produce mortality, thereby having an as yet unquantified impact on fish populations. The presence of fish diseases also reduces the marketability of catches. It cannot be excluded that changes in species composition of fish populations in German Wadden Sea areas are related to pollution. Concentrations of organochlorine substances in fishes of the southern North Sea give rise to the concern that their reproductive capability might be impaired. Future work has to be directed to this problem. Impact of pollution on populations of marine organisms has so far not been demonstrated.

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