The Salton Sea, the largest manmade lake in California, is officially designated by the State of California as an agricultural drainage reservoir. The purpose of this study was to determine organochlorine and organophosphorous pesticides, as well as polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) concentrations in sediments and fish tissues in the Salton Sea and evaluate the relative ecological risk of these compounds. Sediment samples were taken during 2000-2001 and fish tissues (Tilapia mossambique, Cynoscion xanthulu) were collected in May 2001. All samples were analyzed for 12 chlorinated pesticides, 6 organophosphorus pesticides, and 55 polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) congeners. SigmaDichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (SigmaDDT) and total PCB concentrations observed in sediments ranged from 10 to 40 and 116 to 304 ng/g dry wt, respectively. DDT/DDD ratios in sediments and fish tissues of the northern Sea in 2001 indicated recent DDT exposure. Lindane, dieldrin, dichlorodiphenylethane (DDE) and total PCB concentrations detected in sediments exceeded probable effect levels established for freshwater ecosystems, and pp-DDE and total PCB concentrations were higher than effect range-median values developed for marine and estuarine sediments. In fish liver, concentrations of endrin and SigmaDDT exceeded threshold effect level established for invertebrates. SigmaDDT concentrations detected in fish tissues were higher than threshold concentrations for the protection of wildlife consumers of aquatic biota. DDE concentrations in fish muscles tissues were above the 50 ng/g concentration threshold for the protection of predatory birds. Dimethoate, diazinon, malathion, chlorpyrifos, disulfoton varied from < or = 0.15 to 9.5 ng/g dry wt in sediments and from < or = 0.1 to 80.3 ng/g wet wt in fish tissues. Disulfoton was found in relatively high concentrations (up to 80.3 ng/g) in all organs from Tilapia and Corvina. These results demonstrate continued contamination of specific organochlorine compounds in sediments and resident fish species of the Salton Sea.