Scallops (Chlamys ferrari) were cultured for 30 days in seawater containing benzo(k)fluoranthene (BkF) at 0.5, 1.0 and 10.0 microg/L. No effects were noted on 7-ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase (EROD) activity in digestive gland at low concentrations (0.5 and 1 microg/L) of BkF, but BkF increased the glutathione-S-transferase (GST) activity. At 10 microg/L BkF increased EROD activity significantly, and depressed GST activity. Superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase (CAT) and glutathione peroxidase (GPx) in digestive gland increased significantly in 0.5 and 1 microg/L BkF. In 10 microg/L concentrations of BkF, the activity of three antioxidant enzymes increased first and reached a peak after a few days, before tapering off towards the end of the 30 day exposure. In high concentrations of BkF, activity of three antioxidant enzymes in gill showed an early peak (12 h), before dropping off. Lipid peroxidation (LPO) levels increased along with sampling times, and there were time- and concentration-effects between LPO levels and BkF. The responses of the gills and the digestive gland were not always parallel which can be explained by differences in the bioavailability of the toxicant. The performance of each biomarker is assessed in the context of the role and advantages of selecting a battery of biomarkers for detecting contamination problems. The use of C. ferrari as a sentinel species for biomonitoring potential toxic effects in situ is discussed as well as mechanisms of BKF toxicity and alexipharmic strategies of C. ferrari.