The effects of contaminants in European eel: a review

Ecotoxicology. 2010 Feb;19(2):239-66. doi: 10.1007/s10646-009-0424-0. Epub 2009 Oct 6.


European eel (Anguilla anguilla (L.)) stocks are in decline in most of their geographical distribution and their status is considered below safe biological limits. Recently, there is an increasing awareness that spawner quality might be an essential element in the decline of the species since pollution by bioaccumulating chemical substances may have a large impact on the reproduction success of the eel. This review gives an overview of the literature on the effects of contaminants on the European eel and on the consequences on the biology and fitness of the eel in order to document the role of pollution in its decline. A variety of contaminants have been found to affect the eel. These contaminants may cause disturbance of the immune system, the reproduction system, the nervous system and the endocrine system and effects were reported on several levels of biological organization, from subcellular, organ, individual up to even population level. More extensive research is needed in order to evaluate how pollutants are detrimental to eel populations. Getting a comprehensive overview of the quality (including contamination levels, biomarker responses, lipid content and condition) of the silver eel population all over Europe seems to be an essential and urgent objective for the European eel management.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anguilla / physiology*
  • Animals
  • Endocrine System / drug effects*
  • Endocrine System / metabolism
  • Immune System / drug effects*
  • Immune System / metabolism
  • Nervous System / drug effects*
  • Nervous System / metabolism
  • Reproduction / drug effects*
  • Reproduction / physiology
  • Soil Pollutants / toxicity*
  • Water Pollutants / toxicity*


  • Soil Pollutants
  • Water Pollutants