Fish Species Used as Biomarker for Heavy Metal and Hydrocarbon Contamination for Cross River, Nigeria

Document Type



School of Nursing and Midwifery, East Africa


Enhanced concentrations of Fe, Zn, Mn, Pb, Cu, Cd and total hydrocarbons (THC) determined in fish samples from the Cross River system, Nigeria have been associated with clinical defects (nausea, headache, hepatitis, body rashes) observed in coastal residents who are the major consumers of the fish species. Fish samples were collected from ten locations with varying degrees of exposure to human activities. Heavy metal concentrations in fish followed the sequence: Fe > Zn > Mn > Pb > Cu > Cd with the highest concentration of 243 µg/g (Fe) wet weight occurring in Tympanotonus sp. Fe levels were significantly (P < 0.001) higher than other metals analysed. The sequence in total hydrocarbon concentrations according to fish species was in the order of O. niloticus (55.1 µg/g) > E. fimbriata > P. elongatus > Portonus sp. > C. nigrodigitatus > Tympanotonus sp. Generally, the demersal species showed a marked potential for tolerating high levels of heavy metals while the pelagic species showed preference for the accumulation of hydrocarbons. The degree of contamination depended on pollutant type, fish species, sampling location, trophic level and their mode of feeding. The persistent accumulation and tolerable potential of Tympanotonus, Portonus and P. elongatus suggest that they might be effectively utilized as self-integrating indicators for time-series monitoring of the rate of recovery of the impacted ecosystem by heavy metals. Possible sources of pollutant include leachates from municipal dumps, used crankcase oils from fluvial discharges (mechanic workshops) and occasional oil spills.


This work was published before the author joined Aga Khan University.