Mediterranean Sea

An inland sea separating North Africa from Europe. The Mediterranean is linked to the Atlantic Ocean at the Strait of Gibraltar, with the Red Sea and Indian Ocean by the Suez Canal and with the Black Sea at the Dardanelles and Sea of Marmara. Its coastline extends 46,000 km/28,580 mi. running through 22 countries, of which eight are members of the Arab League: Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria, Libya, Egypt, Gaza, Lebanon, and Syria. . The Sea’s 26,000 kilometers of coast support a population estimated at 132 million inhabitants. In the summer months the tourists to southern Europe add millions more to the permanent population.

The Mediterranean Sea is 2, 5 million square kilometers or 965,000 square miles in area. It is 3,900km long with a maximum width of 1,600km. It has an average depth of 1500 m; and a maximum depth of 5150 m off the southern coast of Greece. The waters off Libya’s coast in the Gulf of Sirte are the warmest of all the waters in the Mediterranean.

The Mediterranean is an almost completely closed basin, twice as much water evaporates as is replenished by rivers. The inflow of surface water from the Atlantic Ocean is the sea's major source of replenishment and water renewal. It is estimated that its waters take over a century to be completely renewed through the Strait of Gibraltar, which is only 300 m (1000 ft) deep and 13km (8 mi) at its narrowest. The scarce inflow and the high evaporation make the Mediterranean much saltier than the Atlantic Ocean.

The waters of the Black Sea, which are at a higher level than those of the Mediterranean, flow into the Mediterranean basin through the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara and the Dardanelles. The Black Sea collects waters from a drainage basin which includes a large part of central and Eastern Europe and Turkey. The Black Sea is heavily polluted by what the many rivers empty into it, adding another pollutant to the Mediterranean.

The Suez Canal in the southeast connects the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. Through the Canal, many non-native species are now colonizing the Eastern Mediterranean basins.

Salt is extracted by evaporation in many areas and there are several offshore natural oil and gas extraction facilities.

Marine life
Though low in nutrients, the Mediterranean supports diverse fish species; hake, sole, tuna, sardines, anchovies, mackerel.

There are19 species of cetaceans, 8 of which are considered common: the Fin whale, Sperm whale, Striped dolphin, Risso's dolphin, long finned Pilot whale, Bottlenose dolphin, Common dolphin, Cuvier's beaked whale. Four species are less common: the Minke whale, Killer whale, False killer whale, Rough toothed dolphin, and six species are non-native but occasionally sighted in the last 120 years, notably the Humpback whale and the Mediterranean Monk Seal, which is the only pinniped to be found within the Mediterranean Sea. It is now very rare and listed as an endangered species.

The marine mammal population and marine life in general are threatened by human activities, such as unsustainable fisheries, chemical pollution, and ship traffic, offshore speedboat competitions and military maneuvers.

Strong regulation measures are needed in order to increase awareness about critical habitat requirements and to reduce harmful impact caused by human activities. Many organizations are concerned with the ecology of the sea. MedWet, an organization founded in 1991, is a forum where the various Mediterranean countries can meet to discuss, identify key issues and take positive action to protect wetlands and biodiversity of the Mediterranean.

Role in history
Early civilizations flourished around the Mediterranean. The Phoenicians who founded the city of
Tyre on the eastern Mediterranean were the first seafaring civilization. They established their commercial colonies on the North African coast. They were followed over the centuries by Carthage, Greece and Rome, competing for dominance of the sea’s shores and trade. Later the sea was dominated by the Byzantine Empire, then the Arabs, then the Italian city states, such as Venice and Genoa. Control of its islands, coasts, and trade routes was vital during both World Wars. Since World War II the region has been of strategic importance to the USA and Western European countries (NATO).

Today, the Mediterranean’s historic sites and beaches are its most valuable resource, producing almost half the world’s tourist revenue.

Map: www.medwet.org

Reference: http://na.nefsc.noaa.gov/lme/text/lme26.htm http://www.unipv.it/webcib/edu_Mediterraneo_uk.html