Abstract Although mercury is recognized as a potent neurotoxicant, information regarding its threat to fish brain and underlying mechanisms is still scarce. In accordance, the objective of this work was to assess vulnerability of fish to mercury neurotoxicity by evaluating brain pro-oxidant status in wild European sea bass ( Dicentrarchus labrax) captured in an estuarine area affected by chlor-alkali industry discharges (Laranjo Basin, Ria de Aveiro, Portugal). To achieve this goal, brain antioxidant responses such as catalase (CAT), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), glutathione reductase (GR), glutathione S-transferase (GST) activities and total glutathione (GSHt) content were measured. Additionally, damage was determined as lipid peroxidation. To ascertain the influence of seasonal variables on both mercury accumulation and oxidative stress profiles, surveys were conducted in contrasting conditions—warm and cold periods. In the warm period, brain of fish from mercury contaminated sites exhibited ambivalent antioxidant responses, viz. higher GR activity and lower CAT activity regarded, respectively, as possible signs of protective adaptation and increased susceptibility to oxidative stress challenge. Though the risk of an overwhelming ROS production cannot be excluded, brain appeared to possess compensatory mechanisms and was able to avoid lipid peroxidative damage. The warm period was the most critical for the appearance of oxidative damage as no inter-site alterations on oxidative stress endpoints were detected in the cold period. Since seasonal differences were found in oxidative stress responses and not in mercury bioaccumulation, environmental factors affected the former more than the latter. This work increases the knowledge on mercury neurotoxicity in feral fish, highlighting that the definition of critical tissue concentrations depends on environmental variables.