Chlordecone in the marine environment around the French West Indies: from measurement to pollution management decisions

Chlordecone is a very persistent insecticide used in banana plantations of the French West Indies between 1972 and 1993. Chlordecone residues were found in inland water, in agricultural and freshwater products, and in marine organisms. This pollution has become of great concern in 2007. Therefore, a governmental action Plan was launched to better assess the pollution and to improve the consumer’s protection. Within this plan, 1048 samples from 69 different species of marine fishes and crustaceans were collected all around both the Guadeloupe and the Martinique Islands and analyzed. The results confirm the presence of chlordecone in marine organisms, with highly variable concentrations (from the detection limit to 1000 μ In 17.9 % of the samples, concentrations exceeded 20 μ, the maximum acceptable level in fish according to the French regulation (Anon, 2008). Two main features of this contamination were characterized. 1) Because of the sedimentation of contaminated suspended soil particles, the sheltered bays are more exposed to chlordecone than the open coast where terrigenous flux are dispersed. 2) Species biology, particularly their lifestyle and diet, appear to influence contamination levels. Thus, the more contaminated species live in relation with sediment or are at high trophic level. These results have directly supported political decisions in order to prevent too high exposure of consumers to chlordecone. Fishing activities in sheltered bays have been forbidden for potentially highly contaminated species like benthic crustaceans and top predators. Further studies are under way to assess the importance of the trophic transport of chlordecone within the foodweb, and to evaluate the historical deposition of this insecticide in sediment and its further bioavailability.


chlordecone (Kepone), French West Indies, fishes, crustaceans, organochlorinated contaminant, risk assessment, pollution management

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Bertrand Jacques, Bodiguel Xavier, Abarnou Alain, Reynal Lionel, Bocquene Gilles (2010). Chlordecone in the marine environment around the French West Indies: from measurement to pollution management decisions. Communication, ICES Conference and Meeting (CM), 2010, Nantes.

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