Scottish Marine and Freshwater Science Volume 4 Number 4: Measurement of Contaminants and their Effects in Environmental Samples - Proposal for the Revision of the Sampling Programme

Review of contaminant monitoring currently undertaken in Scotland's seas

Executive Summary

Descriptor 8 (contaminants and their effects) is one of the eleven Marine Strategy Framework Directive ( MSFD) qualitative descriptors for determining Good Environmental Status ( GES) (Directive 2008/56/ EC). To monitor compliance with Good Environmental Status ( GES) for Descriptor 8, contaminant concentrations and biological effects should be measured in environmental samples and compared to assessment criteria. The contaminant monitoring currently undertaken in Scotland's seas was reviewed. Monitoring programmes include the UK Clean Seas Environment Monitoring Programme ( CSEMP), undertaken by Marine Scotland Science ( MSS) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency ( SEPA), and the Water Framework Directive ( WFD) monitoring, undertaken mainly by SEPA. The suitability of current monitoring programmes in addressing the requirements of Descriptor 8 was assessed.

Contaminants and effects monitoring is undertaken in Scottish coastal and offshore areas as part of the CSEMP. The main focus of the CSEMP to date has been to meet the temporal trend monitoring requirements of the OSPAR Convention and in respect of compliance with EC Directives such as WFD. Monitoring of the OSPAR Coordinated Environmental Monitoring Programme ( CEMP) determinands is undertaken in sediment and biota and may also be used for assessment of GES for Descriptor 8. WFD monitoring in coastal and transitional water bodies is undertaken by SEPA (mainly water and some biota), although monitoring of organic contaminants in water has largely stopped in Scotland as concentrations are well below the WFD Environmental Quality Standards ( EQSs) and frequently below the limit of detection of the analyses. As most WFD substances are not an issue in coastal or transitional waters, further monitoring in offshore waters will not be required for MSFD unless there are recognised point source emissions or following a chemical spill.

Currently sediment and fish from a number of Scottish sea areas [1] are monitored annually, whilst other sea areas ( e.g. Forties, Hebrides) have not been monitored. The frequency of monitoring contaminant groups and biological effects in each sea area was reviewed. Where concentrations are below Background Assessment Concentrations ( BACs) and are stable or declining, monitoring should be every 6 years. Where concentrations are above BACs but below EQSs, Environmental Assessment Criteria ( EACs), Effects Range Low ( ERL) or EC food levels and concentrations are not increasing monitoring should be every 3 years. Three yearly monitoring should also be undertaken if concentrations are < BACs and showing an upward trend. Annual monitoring will only continue if concentrations are greater than the EQS/ EAC/ ERL/ EC food level or above the BAC and showing an upward trend. Areas not currently monitored but where concentrations are expected to be low should be sampled on a rolling basis every 6 years.

For biological effects it is proposed that Scotland will monitor selected effects measurements (including the end points considered to be OSPAR 'common' and 'candidate' indicators) from the ICES integrated scheme on a rolling basis such that each sea area is sampled at least once per MSFD reporting cycle (every 6 years). At locations where human pressures are highest (Clyde and Forth), or where there is evidence of several effects currently being above the EAC ( e.g. in the Integrated Assessment research project), then sampling should be conducted annually; if several effects are above the BAC then monitoring should be every three years; otherwise once per 6-year MSFD cycle.


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