Abstract The Marennes-Oléron Bay, hosting the largest oyster production in France, is influenced by the historic polymetallic pollution of the Gironde Estuary. Despite management efforts and decreasing emissions in the Gironde watershed, cadmium levels in oysters from the bay are close to the consumption limit (5μgg−1 dw, EC). From mid April to mid July 2009, we investigated the role of tidal resuspension and regional hydrodynamics on Cd speciation (seawater, SPM, phytoplankton, sediment, microphytobenthos) and bioaccumulation in 18month-old oysters (gills, digestive glands, rests of tissues) reared under natural conditions (i) at ∼60cm above the sediment and (ii) on the sediment surface. Dissolved and particulate Cd concentrations in surface and bottom waters were similar and constant over tidal cycle suggesting the absence of Cd release during sediment resuspension. Temporal dissolved and particulate Cd concentrations were closely related to Gironde Estuary water discharges, showing increasing concentrations during flood situations and decreasing concentrations afterwards. Cd depletion in the water column was associated with increasing Cd in the [20–100μm] plankton fraction, suggesting Cd bioaccumulation. After 3months, enrichment factors of Cd in tissues of oysters exposed in the water column and directly on the sediment were respectively 3.0 and 2.2 in gills, 4.7 and 3.2 in digestive glands and 4.9 and 3.4 in remaining tissues. Increasing Cd bioaccumulation in gills, digestive glands and remaining tissues can be related to elevated dissolved Cd in the bay, suggesting gill contamination via the direct pathway and subsequent internal redistribution of Cd to other organs and tissues. Elevated Cd contents in oysters reared on tables could be attributed to different trophic Cd transfer (phytoplankton versus microphytobenthos) or to different oyster metabolisms between the rearing conditions as suggested by metallothionein concentrations.