The pan-European MacroBen database was used to compare the AZTI Marine Biotic Index (AMBI) and the Benthic Quality Index (BQIES), 2 biotic indices which rely on 2 distinct assessments of species sensitivity/tolerance (i.e. AMBI EG and BQI E[S50]0.05) and which up to now have only been compared on restricted data sets. A total of 12409 stations were selected from the database. This subset (indicator database) was later divided into 4 marine and 1 estuarine subareas. We computed E(S50)0.05 in 643 taxa, which accounted for 91.8% of the total abundances in the whole marine indicator database. AMBI EG and E(S50)0.05 correlated poorly. Marked heterogeneities in E(S50)0.05 between the marine and estuarine North Sea and between the 4 marine subareas suggest that sensitivity/tolerance levels vary among geographical areas. High values of AMBI were always associated with low values of BQIES, which underlines the coherence of these 2 indices in identifying stations with a bad ecological status (ES). Conversely, low values of AMBI were sometimes associated with low values of BQIES resulting in the attribution of a good ES by AMBI and a bad ES by BQIES. This was caused by the dominance of species classified as sensitive by AMBI and tolerant by BQIES. Some of these species are known to be sensitive to natural disturbance, which highlights the tendency of BQIES to automatically classify dominant species as tolerant. Both indices thus present weaknesses in their way of assessing sensitivity/tolerance levels (i.e. existence of a single sensitivity/tolerance list for AMBI and the tight relationship between dominance and tolerance for BQIES). Future studies should focus on the (1) clarification of the sensitivity/tolerance levels of the species identified as problematic, and (2) assessment of the relationships between AMBI EG and E(S50)0.05 within and between combinations of geographical areas and habitats.