Contaminants of emerging concern in the European marine environment

Merged marine chemistry and sediments groups seek CEC contributors.

Published: 11 June 2020

​ICES Marine Chemistry Working Group (MCWG) and Working Group for Marine Sediments in relation to pollution (WGMS) have decided to merge their expertise into one expert group. This decision was made at their joint meeting that took place in March 2020.  Both groups share a lot of interests - as reflected in the aligned terms of reference (ToR) over the past two years – and while WGMS has a strong focus on contaminants​ in relation to sediment, the group originates from MCWG.

Chairs and members of MCWG and WGMS agreed that merging both groups make sense at the current time and Claire Mason, Cefas and WGMS co-chair​, notes that “working together helps us with many of our interests overlapping, including CECs for example”.

Contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) are one of main joint tasks for the groups (MCWG ToR a  and WGMS ToR e). The increase in CECs is a major environmental issue, with OSPAR, Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM), the European Commission Joint Research Centre (JRC) and the Network of reference laboratories, research centres and related organisations for monitoring of emerging environmental substances (NORMAN) all invested in better understanding the diversity and extent of CECs in the marine environment.

There have been many studies carried out in recent years in relation to CEC distribution in the marine environment but the majority of them correspond to local areas or specific coastal ecosystems. To identify which CECs should be considered in future monitoring programs at regional or sub-regional level, there should be a more complete view of the available information about the occurrence and distribution of the most common CECs in the European marine environment.

MCWG and WGMS are gathering recent data on the occurrence of CECs, with the goal of assisting in the selection of hazardous substances of concern to be further considered by OSPAR and, potentially, the EU Water Framework Directive/Marine Strategy Framework Directive for inclusion in priority list of substances. A list of contaminant families to be investigated was presented in the 2017 ICES Advice, “OSPAR request on information for use in selecting and deselecting hazardous substances of concern”.

MCWG and WGMS members have nominated coordinators ​for most EU coastal countries to gather information and co-author a review publication. The groups have tried to cover as wide an area as possible as the collaboration of researchers from different countries is crucial and any data contributions will be cited in this review.

Each coordinator will use a bespoke template to collect data from their national scientific network, referencing the different CEC families considered (pharmaceuticals, personal-care products, flame retardants, PFASs, etc), including general information about the sampling area, the frequency of detection in the study, the concentration range, the project, and the bibliographic reference.

These data will be presented and discussed at the final joint meeting of MCWG/WGMS, scheduled from 1–5 March 2021 in Ghent, Belgium. If you are interested in contributing to this work, contact Víctor M. León or Cathérine Munschy.


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​Participants at the joint meeting of Marine Chemistry Working Group (MCWG) and Working Group for Marine Sedimentsin relation to pollution​ (WGMS)​ in Lisbon, March 2020.

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Contaminants of emerging concern in the European marine environment

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