AbstractThe spatial distribution of polyfluoroalkyl compounds (PFCs) and their composition profile was investigated in 48 water samples collected from the German Bight. All samples were prepared by solid-phase extraction with Strata XAW cartridges and analysed using high performance liquid chromatography/negative electrospray ionisation–tandem mass spectrometry (HPLC/(−)ESI–MS/MS). Concentrations of various PFCs, including perfluorinated sulfonates (PFSAs), perfluorinated carboxylic acids (PFCAs), unsaturated fluorotelomercarboxylic acids, perfluoralkyl sulfonamide and sulfonamidoethanol, were quantified. The ∑PFC concentration ranges from 9.36 ng L−1 to 31.2 ng L−1, while perfluorobutane sulfonate (PFBS, 3.38–17.7 ng L−1) and perfluorooctanoic acid (PFOA, 2.67–7.83 ng L−1) dominated. The rivers Elbe, Weser and Ems had a high influence on the distribution of most PFCs in the German Bight, with maximum PFC concentrations found in their estuaries, and concentrations decreasing with increasing distance from the coast. Conversely, PFBS had its maximum concentration not in the estuaries but in the western German Bight, which suggest an additional source, where PFBS was transported into the German Bight with the westerly current.