Marine Pollutants

Marine Pollutants. Courtesy of Ports of Cork/ Photographer Andrew Downes/ Copyright Marine Institute/ Copyright Marine Institute.

Chemical pollutants associated with land and marine based human activities can end up in the marine environment. This can occur from point sources such as discharges, dumping or accidental spills, and from diffuse sources by way of rivers, runoff or over long distances from atmospheric deposition. Pollutants include nutrients, which can stimulate undesirable algal growth, and a range of potentially hazardous substances, some of which are persistent, toxic to living organisms and/or bioaccumulative.

International and national prioritisation identifies the substances of most concern and these substances are measured in water, biota and sediments to ensure concentrations are at acceptable levels. Examples of substances monitored by the MI includes trace metals, hydrocarbons, pesticides, dioxins and PCBs, flame retardants, and substances which may disrupt the endocrine system.

Working closely with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Department of Community and Local Government (DECLG), we carry out monitoring of chemical pollutants in the marine environment in accordance with various international obligations*, including

 (*We expect monitoring for contaminants in various marine matrices in Irish marine waters, required under the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive , to commence in 2015. The programmes above will form the cornerstone of monitoring of contaminants in seafood and environment for good environmental status.)

We report our monitoring data to the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) and the European Environment Agency, and we work with our European colleagues to produce regional assessments under the OSPAR Convention.


Our current marine environment research areas include:

  • the occurrence, fate and biological effects of chemical and emerging pollutants
  • novel marine monitoring techniques 
  • new analytical methodologies for chemical analysis of pollutants and residues

Contact us for further information.