MYTILOS – Evaluation of Coastal Water Contamination Using Biointegrators


The useful role of "sentinel" organisms or "indicators" for marine environment contaminant monitoring has been recognized for several decades. Bioaccumulation is unaffected by the rapid fluctuations of water masses, and facilitates analysis due to the higher concentrations of chemical substances found in accumulating organisms. The monitoring of chemical contamination levels and trends in Mediterranean Sea coastal environments is sometimes, however, hindered by the absence of natural mussel populations in certain areas of the basin.

On the basis of data acquired on the French Mediterranean coast by Ifremer and the Rhône Méditerranée & Corsica water board since 1996, via the RINBIO network (see, the MYTILOS project drew up a chemical contamination map on a Western Mediterranean scale, using a standardized methodology. Between 2004 and 2006, various oceanographic campaigns were conducted on the continental coasts of Spain, Italy and France, the Balearic Islands, Sicily, Sardinia, Corsica and along the Maghreb coast. Around 120 days were spent at sea deploying and retrieving 124 mussel cages.

Analyses focused on several contaminant types: heavy metals, organochlorinated compounds (DDTs and metabolites, PCBs), and 16 polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). Complementary measurements were performed on a small number of cages to assess levels of dioxins and furanes, PBDEs, and nonyl and octyl phenols.

A large proportion of research was conducted in the framework of the INTERREG III B / MEDOCC project, steered by Ifremer and backed by Toulon Var Technologies (see in cooperation with the ICRAM (Italy), IEO (Spain), PSTS (Sicily), IMEDEA (Balearic Islands), CSIC (Catalonia), the Agence Catalane de l’Eau, INSTM (Tunisia), ISMAL (Algeria), INRH and University of Agadir (Morocco). MYTILOS is also backed by the PNUE/PAM - MEDPOL and Agence de l’Eau Rhône Méditerranée & Corse (Rhône Méditerranée & Corsica water board).


The most highly impacted areas were mainly urban and industrial centres and the mouths of major rivers. Towards the open sea, concentrations of organic compounds were shown to decrease faster than metal concentrations in these areas. Measured concentrations in midsea (i.e. around 1 km from the coast) were similar to concentrations in natural shellfish populations living along the coast.

Example of results for PCBs (polychlorobiphenyls), click to enlarge:

MYTIMED Project – Assessment of Chemical Contamination in Western Mediterranean Coastal Waters

In the aim of extending the scope of MYTILOS in the Western Mediterranean, IFREMER and Toulon Var Technologies received joint-financing in 2006 in the framework of the INTERREG III B MEDOC project MYTIMED, associating the ICRAM and PSTS (Italy), HCMR and ANEM (Greece), INSTM (Tunisia), NCMS (Lebanon) and HIMR (Syria). This project is backed by the PNUE/PAM – MEDPOL. Various cruises took place in May and August 2007 to acquire data from the coastal waters of these countries.


The data collected by MYTIMED and MYTILOS will be made available via a website. This site will also provide access to automated processing procedures (statistics) and data edition procedures (graphics, classification, SIG links).

Completion of the Mediterranean Road Book is also envisaged in conjunction with the PNUE/PAM - MEDPOL and CIESM, via two complementary campaigns: the Adriatic (MYTIAD campaign in 2008) and the southeastern Mediterranean: Israel, Palestine, Egypt and Libya (to be defined in agreement with the relevant countries).


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