This study assesses the applicability of a sentinel fish species as a biomonitor of metal pollution. Gudgeon (Gobio gobio) were collected from 14 sites in metal polluted lowland rivers in Flanders, including a clear Cd and Zn pollution gradient. Fish tissues were analysed for Cd, Cr, Cu, Ni, Pb and Zn. Metal levels in organs were related to levels in water and sediment. At some sites Cd and Zn levels were up to 50 times higher compared to reference values and literature. Significant relationships between Cd and Zn in fish tissue and environmental levels were found, especially in the pollution gradient where up to 70% of the observed variation could be described. Condition factor differed significantly among the sampling sites but could not be directly related to the environmental metal levels. Nevertheless, in the pollution gradient, threshold tissue concentrations could be defined above which the condition factor was always low.
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