Cadmium is a biologically important trace metal that co-varies with phosphate (PO43- or Dissolved Inorganic Phosphate, DIP) in seawater. However, the exact nature of Cd uptake mechanisms and the relationship with phosphate and other nutrients in global oceans remain elusive. Here, we present a time series study of Cd and PO43- from coastal Antarctic seawater, showing that Cd co-varies with macronutrients during times of high biological activity even under nutrient and trace metal replete conditions. Our data imply that Cd/PO43- in coastal surface Antarctic seawater is higher than open ocean areas. Furthermore, the sinking of some proportion of this high Cd/PO43- water into Antarctic Bottom Water, followed by mixing into Circumpolar Deep Water, impacts Southern Ocean preformed nutrient and trace metal composition. A simple model of endmember water mass mixing with a particle fractionation of Cd/P (aCd–P) determined by the local environment can be used to account for the Cd/PO43- relationship in different parts of the ocean. The high Cd/PO43- of the coastal water is a consequence of two factors: the high input from terrestrial and continental shelf sediments and changes in biological fractionation with respect to P during uptake of Cd in regions of high Fe and Zn. This implies that the Cd/PO43- ratio of the Southern Ocean will vary on glacial–interglacial timescales as the proportion of deep water originating on the continental shelves of the Weddell Sea is reduced during glaciations because the ice shelf is pinned at the edge of the continental shelf. There could also be variations in biological fractionation of Cd/P in the surface waters of the Southern Ocean on these timescales as a result of changes in atmospheric inputs of trace metals. Further variations in the relationship between Cd and PO43- in seawater arise from changes in population structure and community requirements for macro- and micronutrients.