National Fish Tissue Archive

Scientists from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology and Lancaster Environment Centre are working with the Environment Agency to develop a National Fish Tissue Archive for the UK. The main purpose of the archive is to enable chemical contamination in rivers to be assessed.

Our ability to assess what is happening in the environment is often hampered by a lack of information about past conditions. Storing samples for the future allows today's samples to be analysed in the context of tomorrow's methods and questions. This will enable us to determine temporal and spatial trends.

Why fish?
  • Fish integrate what is present in the water/food web. This is potentially more revealing than occasional water samples.
  • Uptake is a prerequisite for potential effects on wildlife. The concentration of a chemical in tissue is a more meaningful measure of exposure than water concentration.
  • The Environment Agency already catches fish in order to monitor their number species and size at many river sites on an annual basis. The Agency is therefore an ideal partner.
Why rivers?
  • Many of the chemicals that we use on a daily basis are discharged into rivers (via sewage works).
  • The size of our rivers is relatively small by international comparison, and the density of our population is high – giving little dilution per head of population.
How does it operate?
  • Fish collected in the field by the Environment Agency are frozen on site. They are homogenized in their frozen state and divided into sub-samples back in the laboratory. 
  • Some sub-samples are analysed immediately, but most are stored long term at -80°C as a resource for retrospective monitoring. 
  • The chemical results, together with other relevant information, are stored in a database, which is to be made available via the internet. 

Fish are collected in the field and frozen on site. Details are recorded on the National Fish Tissue Archive record sheet

Contact Monika Juergens