Mercury, cadmium and lead in black scabbardfish (Aphanopus carbo Lowe, 1839) from mainland Portugal and the Azores and Madeira archipelagos


  • Valentina Costa Departamento de Oceanografia e Pescas, Universidade dos Açores
  • Helena Maria Lourenço Unidade de Valorização dos Produtos da Pesca e da Aquicultura, INRB, L-IPIMAR
  • Ivone Figueiredo Unidade de Recursos Marinhos e Sustentabilidade, INRB, L-IPIMAR
  • Lucília Carvalho Departamento de Estatística e Investigação Operacional, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa
  • Humberto Lopes Departamento de Oceanografia e Pescas, Universidade dos Açores
  • Inês Farias Unidade de Recursos Marinhos e Sustentabilidade, INRB, L-IPIMAR
  • Luís Pires Departamento de Oceanografia e Pescas, Universidade dos Açores
  • Cláudia Afonso Unidade de Valorização dos Produtos da Pesca e da Aquicultura, INRB, L-IPIMAR
  • Ana Rita Vieira Departamento de Biologia Animal e Centro de Oceanografia, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa
  • Maria Leonor Nunes Unidade de Valorização dos Produtos da Pesca e da Aquicultura, INRB, L-IPIMAR
  • Leonel Serrano Gordo Departamento de Biologia Animal e Centro de Oceanografia, Faculdade de Ciências da Universidade de Lisboa



total mercury, cadmium, lead, muscle, gonad, liver, Aphanopus carbo, Northeast Atlantic


Total mercury (THg), cadmium (Cd) and lead (Pb) concentrations were investigated in muscle, liver and gonad tissue of black scabbardfish (Aphanopus carbo) from the southern northeast Atlantic at three Portuguese locations: the mainland and the archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira. Particular emphasis was placed on the comparison of metal levels between geographic locations. Other factors such as size, sex and sexual maturity were also investigated. The median concentrations (mg/kg ww) of THg showed a decreasing trend in the order liver>muscle>gonad. Cadmium levels decreased in the order liver>gonad>muscle and Pb levels decreased in the order gonad>liver>muscle. According to the EU limits, the concentration observed in some specimens, particularly those of THg, raises some food safety concerns. In all the tissues the concentrations of each toxic metal differed between locations. In particular: i) THg concentrations in specimens from Madeira were significantly higher than those from the Azores and the mainland; ii) Cd levels in specimens from the mainland were significantly higher than those from Madeira and the Azores; and iii) for all analysed tissues Pb levels were significantly higher in specimens from the Azores than in those from the mainland. The differences in toxic metal levels between locations were further discussed in relation to aspects of species dynamics and the influence of the main environmental features at each location.


Download data is not yet available.


Afonso, C., H.M. Lourenço, C. Pereira, M.F. Martins, M.L. Carvalho, M. Castro and M.L. Nunes. – 2008. Total and organic mercury, selenium and α-tocopherol in some deep-water fish species. J.Sci. Food Agric., 88: 2543-255.

Afonso, C., H.M. Lourenço, A. Dias, M.L. Nunes and M. Castro. – 2007. Contaminant metals in black scabbard fish (Aphanopus carbo) caught off Madeira and the Azores. Food Chem., 101: 120-125

Anon – 2000. Environment and biology of deep-water species Aphanopus carbo in the NEAtlantic: basis for its management (BASBLACK). Final Report of EUStudy Project 97/0084.

ATSDR. – 2008. Draft Toxicological profile for cadmium. Agency for toxic substances and disease registry. Atlanta, Georgia.

Bebiano, M.J., C. Santos, J. Canário, N. Gouveia, D. Sena-Carvalho and C. Vale. – 2007. Hg and metallothionein-like protein in the black scabbardfish Aphanopus carbo. Food and Chem.Toxic., 45: 1443-1452.

Bustamante, P., P. Bocher, Y. Cherel, P. Miramand and F. Caurant. – 2003. Distribution of trace elements in the tissues of benthic and pelagic fish from the Kerguelen Islands. The Sci. Total Environ., 313: 25-39.

Canli, M. and G. Atli. – 2003. The relationship between heavy metal (Cd, Cr, Cu, Fe, Pb, Zn) levels and the size of six Mediterranean fish species. Environ. Pollut., 121: 129-136.

Cosson. R.P, É. Thiébaut, R. Company, M. Castrec-Rouelle, A. Colaço, I. Martins, P.-M. Sarradin and M. J. Bebianno. – 2008. Spatial variation of metal bioaccumulation in the hydrothermal vent mussel Bathymodiolus azoricus. Mar. Env. Res., 65: 405-415.

Cronin, M., I.M. Davies, A. Newton, J.M. Pirie, G. Topping and S. Swan. – 1998. Trace metal concentrations in deep-sea fish from the North Atlantic. Mar. Env. Res., 45: 225-238.

Dugo, G., L. La Pera, A. Bruzzese, T.M. Pellicanò and V. Lo Turco. – 2006. Concentration of Cd (II), Cu (II), Pb (II), Se (IV) and Zn (II) in cultured sea bass (Dicentrarchus labrax) tissues from Tyrrhenian Sea and Sicilian Sea by derivative stripping potentiometry. Food Control, 17: 146-152.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – 1999. Toxicological Review of Cadmium and Compounds and IRIS Summaries for Cadmium and Compounds Federal Register. 64(142): 40369-40370.

EU. – 2006. Commission Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 of 19 December 2006 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs. JOL364: 5-24.

EU. – 2008. Commission Regulation (EC) No 629/2008 of 2 July 2008 amending Regulation (EC) No 1881/2006 setting maximum levels for certain contaminants in foodstuffs. JOL173: 6-9.

Evans, D.W., D.K. Dodoo and P.J. Hanson. – 1993. Trace element concentrations in fish livers: implications of variations with fish size in pollution monitoring. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 26: 329-334.

Falcó, G., J.M. Llobet, A. Bocio and J.L. Domingo. – 2006. Daily intake of arsenic, cadmium, mercury and lead by consumption of edible marine species. J. Agric. Food Chem., 54: 6106-6112.

Figueiredo, I., P. Bordalo-Machado, S. Reis, D. Sena-Carvalho, T. Blasdale, A. Newton and L.S. Gordo. – 2003. Observations on the reproductive cycle of the black scabbardfish (Aphanopus carbo Lowe, 1839) in the NEAtlantic. ICES J. Mar. Sci., 60: 774-779.

Freitas, I.C.L. – 1998. Contribuição para o conhecimento da ecologia alimentar do peixe espada preto, Aphanopus carbo Lowe 1839 (Pisces: Trichiuridae) no Arquipelago da Madeira (in Portuguese). 59 pp. Diplom thesis. Department of Biology, University of Madeira.

Gašpić, Z.K., T. Zvonarić, N. Vrgoč, N. Odžak and A. Barić. – 2002. Cadmium and lead in selected tissues of two commercially important fish species from Adriatic Sea. Water Res., 36: 5023-5028.

Gordo, L.S., D.S. Carvalho, I. Figueiredo, S. Reis, P.B. Machado, A. Newton, and J. Gordon. – 2000. Escala de maturação sexual do peixe-espada preto: uma abordagem macro e microscópica. The sexual maturity scale of black scabbardfish: a macro- and microscopic approach. Celta Editora, Oeiras.

Gordon, J.D.M., N.R. Merrett and R.L. Haedrich. – 1995. Environmental and biological aspects of slope dwelling fishes. In: A.G. Hopper (ed.), Deep-water fisheries of the North Atlantic Oceanic slope, pp. 1-30. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.

Hatch, R.W. and L. Ott. – 1968. Determination of sub-microgram quantities of mercury by atomic absorption spectrophotometry. Anal. Chem., 40: 2085-2087.

Hornung, H., M. D. Krom, Y. Cohen and M. Bernhard. – 1993. Trace metal content in deep-water sharks from the eastern Mediterranean Sea. Mar. Biol., 115: 331-338.

Hrudey, S.E., W. Chen and C.G. Roussex. – 1996. Bioavailability in environmental risk assessment. CRC Press, USA.

Joiris, C. R., I.B. Ali, L. Holsbeek, M. Bossicart and G. Tapia. – 1995. Total and organic mercury in Barents sea pelagic fish. Bull. Env. Cont. Toxic., 55: 674-681.

Johnson,J. and I. Stevens. – 2000. Afine resolution model of the eastern North Atlantic between the Azores, The Canary Islands and the Gibraltar Strait. Deep Sea Res. I, 47: 875-899.

Jorhem, L. – 2000. Determination of metals in food by atomic absorption spectrometry after dry ashing: NMKLCollaborative study. JAOACInt., 83(5): 1204-1211.

Lourenço, H.M., P. Anacleto, C. Afonso, V. Ferraria, M.F. Martins, M.L. Carvalho, A.R. Lino and M.L. Nunes. – 2009. Elemental composition of cephalopods from Portuguese continental waters. Food Chem., 113: 1146-1153.

Magalhães, M.C., V. Costa, G.M. Meneses, M.R. Pinho, R.S. Santos and L.R. Monteiro. – 2007. Intra-and inter specific variability in total and methylmercury bioaccumulation by eight marine fish species from the Azores. Mar. Poll. Bull., 54: 1654-1662.

Martins, M.R. and C. Ferreira. – 1995. Line fishing for black scabbardfish Aphanopus carbo Lowe, 1839 and other deep water species in the eastern mid Atlantic to the north of Madeira. In: A.G. Hoppe (ed.), Deep Water Fisheries of the North Atlantic Oceanic Slope, pp. 323–325. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, The Netherlands.

Martins, I., V. Costa, F.M. Porteiro, A. Colaço and R.S. Santos. – 2006. Mercury concentrations in fish species caught at Mid-Atlantic Ridge hydrothermal vent fields. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 320: 253-258.

Mason R.P, K.R. Rolfhus and W.F. Fitzgerald. – 1995. Methylated and elemental mercury cycling in surface and deep ocean waters of the North Atlantic. Wat. Air Soil Pollut., 80: 665-677.

Maul, G.E. – 1961. The Ceratioid Fishes in the Collection of the Museu Municipal do Funchal (Melanocetidae, Himantolophidae, Oneirodidae, Linophrynidae). Boletim do Museu Municipal do Funchal. NºXIV, Art. 50: 87-159.

Merrett, N.R. and R.L. Haedrich. – 1997. Deep-sea demersal fish and fisheries. Chapman and Hall, London.

Monteiro, L.R., E.J. Isidro and H. D. Lopes. – 1991. Mercury content in relation to sex, size, age and growth in two scorpionfish (Helicolenus dactylopterus and Pontinus kuhlii) from Azorean waters. Wat. Air Soil Pollut., 56: 359-367.

Monteiro, L.R., V. Costa, R.W. Furness and R.S. Santos. – 1996. Mercury concentrations in prey fish indicate enhanced bioaccumulation in mesopelagic environments. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 141: 21-25.

Mormede, S. and I.M. Davies. – 2001a. Heavy metals concentrations in commercial deep-sea fish from the Rockall Trough. Cont. Shelf Res., 21: 899-916.

Mormede, S. and I.M. Davies. – 2001b. Trace elements in deep-water fish species from the Rockall Trough. Fish. Res., 51: 197-206.

Muus, B.J., J.G. Nielsen, P. Dahlstrom and B.O. Nyström. – 1998. Guía de identificatión peces de mar del Atlántico y del Mediterráneo, Ediciones Omega, S.A., Barcelona.

Nakamura, I. and N.V. Parin. – 1993. FAOspecies catalogue. Vol 15. Snake mackerels and cutlassfishes of the world (families Gempylidae and Trichiuridae). An annotated and illustrated catalogue of the snake mackerels, snoeks, escolars, gemfishes, sackfishes, domine, oilfishes, cutlassfishes, scabbardfishes, hairtails and frostfishes known to date. FAOFish. Synop., 125 (15): 1-136

Neves, A., A.R. Vieira, I. Farias, I. Figueiredo, V. Sequeira and L.S. Gordo. – 2009. Reproductive strategies in black scabbardfish (Aphanopus carbo Lowe, 1839) from NEAtlantic. Sci. Mar., 73 S2: 19-31. doi:10.3989/scimar.2009.73s2019

Parin, N.V. – 1986. Gempylidae, Trichiuridae. In: P.J.P. Whitehead, M.L. Bauchot, J.C. Hureau, J. Nielsen and E. Tortonese (eds.), Fishes of the North.-eastern Atlantic and the Mediterranean, pp. 967-973, 976-980, Vol II. UNESCO, Paris.

Paterson C. – 1987. Global pollution measured by lead in mid-ocean sediments. Nature, 326: 244-245.

Pérez-Cid, B., C. Boia, L. Pombo and E. Rebelo. – 2001. Determination of trace metals in fish species of the Ria de Aveiro (Portugal) by electrothermal atomic absorption spectrometry. Food Chem., 75: 93-100.

Pollard, R.T. and S. Pu. – 1985. Structure and circulation of the upper Atlantic Ocean northeast of the Azores. Prog. Oceanogr., 14: 443-462.

Reis, M.A., O.R. Oliveira, L.C. Alves, E.M.C. Rita, F. Rodrigues, P. Fialho, C.A. Pio, M.C. Freitas and J.C. Soares. – 2002. Comparison of continental Portugal and Azores Islands aerosol during a Sahara dust storm. Nuclear Instrum. and Meth. in Phys. Res. Section B: Beam Interactions with Materials and Atoms, 189, Issues 1-4: 272-278.

Reinfelder, J.R., N.S. Fisher, S.N. Luoma, J.W. Nichols and W.-X. Wang. – 1998. Trace elements trophic transfer in aquatic organisms: Acritique of the kinetic model approach. The Sci. Total Environ., 219: 117-135.

Riisgård H.U. and S. Hansen. – 1990. Biomagnification of mercury in marine grazing food-chain: algal cells Phaeodactylum tricornutum, mussels Mytilus edulis and flounders Platichthys flesus studied by means of a stepwise-reduction-CVAAmethod. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser., 62: 259-270.

Saltzman B.E, D.W. Yeager and B.G. Meiners. – 1983. Reproducibility and quality control in the analysis of biological samples for lead and mercury. Am. Ind. Hyg. Assoc. J., 44: 263-267.

Storelli, M.M. – 2008. Potential human health risks from metals (Hg, Cd, and Pb) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) via seafood consumption: estimation of target hazard quotients (THQs) and toxic equivalents (TEQs). Food Chem. Toxicol., 46: 2782-2788.

Vieira, A.R., I. Figueiredo, I. Farias, A. Neves, B. Morales-Nin, V. Sequeira, M. R. Martins and L.S. Gordo. – 2009. Age and growth of black scabbardfish (Aphanopus carbo Lowe, 1839 in the southern NEAtlantic. Sci. Mar., 73 S2: 33-46. doi:10.3989/scimar.2009.73s2033

Wallenstein, F.M., R.P. Couto, A.S. Amaral, M. Wilkinson, A.I. Neto and A.S. Rodrigues. – 2009. Baseline metal concentrations in marine algae from São Miguel (Azores) under different ecological conditions – Urban proximity and shallow water hydrothermal activity. Mar. Pollut. Bull., 58: 424-455.




How to Cite

Costa V, Lourenço HM, Figueiredo I, Carvalho L, Lopes H, Farias I, Pires L, Afonso C, Vieira AR, Nunes ML, Serrano Gordo L. Mercury, cadmium and lead in black scabbardfish (Aphanopus carbo Lowe, 1839) from mainland Portugal and the Azores and Madeira archipelagos. scimar [Internet]. 2009Dec.31 [cited 2021Sep.17];73(S2):77-88. Available from:




Most read articles by the same author(s)