The North Sea is a sea
of the Atlantic Ocean
located between Great Britain
, the Netherlands
. An epeiric
(or "shelf") sea on the Europe
an continental shelf
, it connects to the ocean through the English Channel
in the south and the Norwegian Sea
in the north. It is more than long and wide, with an area of .
The North Sea has long been the site of important European shipping lanes as well as a major fishery
. The coast is a popular destination for recreation and tourism in bordering countries, and more recently the sea has developed into a rich source of energy resources, including fossil fuel
, and early efforts in wave power
Historically, the North Sea has featured prominently in geopolitical and military affairs, particularly in Northern Europe. It was also important globally through the power northern Europeans projected worldwide during much of the Middle Ages and into the modern era. The North Sea was the centre of the Vikings' rise
. Subsequently, the Hanseatic League
, the Dutch Republic
, and the British
each sought to gain command of the North Sea and thus access to the world's markets and resources. As Germany's only outlet to the ocean, the North Sea continued to be strategically important through both World Wars.
The coast of the North Sea presents a diversity of geological and geographical features. In the north, deep fjord
s and sheer cliffs mark the Norwegian
coastlines, whereas in the south, the coast consists primarily of sandy beaches and wide mudflat
s. Due to the dense population, heavy industrialization
, and intense use of the sea and area surrounding it, there have been various environmental issues affecting the sea's ecosystems. Adverse environmental issues – commonly including overfishing
, industrial and agricultural runoff
, and dumping, among others – have led to a number of efforts to prevent degradation of the sea while still making use of its economic potential.
The North Sea is bounded by the Orkney Islands
and east coast of Great Britain
to the west
and the northern and central Europe
an mainland to the east and south, including Norway
, the Netherlands
, and France
In the southwest, beyond the Straits of Dover
, the North Sea becomes the English Channel
connecting to the Atlantic Ocean.
In the east, it connects to the Baltic Sea
via the Skagerrak
narrow straits that separate Denmark from Norway and Sweden
In the north it is bordered by the Shetland Islands
, and connects with the Norwegian Sea
, which is a marginal sea in the Arctic Ocean
The North Sea is more than long and wide, with an area of and a volume of .
Around the edges of the North Sea are sizeable islands
s, including Shetland
, and the Frisian Islands
The North Sea receives freshwater from a number of European continental watersheds, as well as the British Isles
. A large part of the European drainage basin
empties into the North Sea, including water from the Baltic Sea
. The largest and most important rivers flowing into the North Sea are the Elbe
and the Rhine
Around 185 million people live in the catchment area
of the rivers discharging into the North Sea
encompassing some highly industrialized areas.
For the most part, the sea lies on the European continental shelf
with a mean depth of .
The only exception is the Norwegian trench
, which extends parallel to the Norwegian shoreline from Oslo
to an area north of Bergen
It is between wide and has a maximum depth of .
The Dogger Bank
, a vast moraine
, or accumulation of unconsolidated glacial debris, rises to a mere below the surface.
This feature has produced the finest fishing location of the North Sea.
The Long Forties
and the Broad Fourteens
are large areas with roughly uniform depth in fathom
s, (forty fathoms and fourteen fathoms or deep respectively). These great banks and others make the North Sea particularly hazardous to navigate,
which has been alleviated by the implementation of satellite navigation systems
The Devil's Hole
lies east of Dundee
, Scotland. The feature is a series of asymmetrical trenches between long, wide and up to deep.
Other areas which are less deep are Cleaver Bank
, Fisher Bank
and Noordhinder Bank
The International Hydrographic Organization
defines the limits of the North Sea as follows:
''On the Southwest.'' A line joining the Walde Lighthouse (France, 1°55'E) and Leathercoat Point (England, 51°10'N).
''On the Northwest.'' From Dunnet Head (3°22'W) in Scotland to Tor Ness (58°47'N) in the Island of Hoy, thence through this island to the Kame of Hoy (58°55'N) on to Breck Ness on Mainland (58°58'N) through this island to Costa Head (3°14'W) and to Inga Ness (59'17'N) in Westray through Westray, to Bow Head, across to Mull Head (North point of Papa Westray) and on to Seal Skerry (North point of North Ronaldsay) and thence to Horse Island (South point of the Shetland Islands).
''On the North.'' From the North point (Fethaland Point) of the Mainland of the Shetland Islands, across to Graveland Ness (60°39'N) in the Island of Yell, through Yell to Gloup Ness (1°04'W) and across to Spoo Ness (60°45'N) in Unst island, through Unst to Herma Ness (60°51'N), on to the SW point of the Rumblings and to Muckle Flugga () all these being included in the North Sea area; thence up the meridian of 0°53' West to the parallel of 61°00' North and eastward along this parallel to the coast of Norway, the whole of Viking Bank being thus included in the North Sea.
''On the East.'' The Western limit of the Skagerrak _line_joining_[[Hanstholm_()_and_the_Naze_([[Lindesnes.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title="Hanstholm.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title=" line joining [[Hanstholm"> line joining [[Hanstholm () and the Naze ([[Lindesnes">Hanstholm.html" style="text-decoration: none;"class="mw-redirect" title=" line joining [[Hanstholm"> line joining [[Hanstholm () and the Naze ([[Lindesnes, )].
;Temperature and salinity
The average temperature is in the summer and in the winter.
The average temperatures have been trending higher since 1988, which has been attributed to climate change
. Air temperatures in January range on average between and in July between . The winter months see frequent gales and storms.
averages between of water.
The salinity has the highest variability where there is fresh water
inflow, such as at the Rhine and Elbe estuaries, the Baltic Sea exit and along the coast of Norway.
;Water circulation and tides
The main pattern to the flow of water in the North Sea is an anti-clockwise
rotation along the edges.
The North Sea is an arm of the Atlantic Ocean receiving the majority of ocean current
from the northwest opening, and a lesser portion of warm current from the smaller opening at the English Channel. These tidal currents leave along the Norwegian coast.
Surface and deep water currents may move in different directions. Low salinity surface coastal waters move offshore, and deeper, denser high salinity waters move inshore.
The North Sea located on the continental shelf has different waves from those in deep ocean water. The wave speeds are diminished and the wave amplitudes are increased. In the North Sea there are two amphidromic
systems and a third incomplete amphidromic system.
[ p. 329 tidal map showing amphidromes
] [ p. 157 tidal map showing amphidromes
In the North Sea the average tide difference in wave amplitude is between zero and .
The Kelvin tide of the Atlantic Ocean is a semidiurnal wave that travels northward. Some of the energy from this wave travels through the English Channel into the North Sea. The wave continues to travel northward in the Atlantic Ocean, and once past the northern tip of Great Britain, the Kelvin wave
turns east and south and once again enters the North Sea.
[ p. 94 shows the amphidromic points of the North Sea
The eastern and western coasts of the North Sea are jagged, formed by glacier
s during the ice ages
. The coastlines along the southernmost part are covered with the remains of deposited glacial sediment.
The Norwegian mountains plunge into the sea creating deep fjord
s and archipelago
s. South of Stavanger, the coast softens, the islands become fewer.
The eastern Scottish coast is similar, though less severe than Norway. From north east of England
, the cliffs become lower and are composed of less resistant moraine
, which erodes more easily, so that the coasts have more rounded contours.
In the Netherlands, Belgium and in East Anglia
is low and marshy.
The east coast and south-east of the North Sea (Wadden Sea
) have coastlines that are mainly sandy and straight owing to longshore drift
, particularly along Belgium and Denmark.
The southern coastal areas were originally amphibious flood plain
s and swampy land. In areas especially vulnerable to storm surges, people settled behind elevated levees and on natural areas of high ground such as spits
As early as 500 BC, people were constructing artificial dwelling hill
s higher than the prevailing flood levels.
It was only around the beginning of the High Middle Ages
, in 1200 AD, that inhabitants began to connect single ring dikes into a dike line along the entire coast, thereby turning amphibious regions between the land and the sea into permanent solid ground.
The modern form of the dikes supplemented by overflow and lateral diversion channels, began to appear in the 17th and 18th centuries, built in the Netherlands. The North Sea Floods of 1953 and 1962 were the impetus for further raising of the dikes as well as the shortening of the coast line so as to present as little surface area as possible to the punishment of the sea and the storms. Currently, 27% of the Netherlands is below sea level protected by dikes, dunes, and beach flats.
today consists of several levels.
The dike slope reduces the energy of the incoming sea, so that the dike itself does not receive the full impact.
Dikes that lie directly on the sea are especially reinforced.
The dikes have, over the years, been repeatedly raised, sometimes up to and have been made flatter to better reduce wave erosion. Where the dunes are sufficient to protect the land behind them from the sea, these dunes are planted with beach grass (''Ammophila arenaria
'') to protect them from erosion by wind, water, and foot traffic.
s threaten, in particular, the coasts of the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and Denmark and low lying areas of eastern England particularly around The Wash
Storm surges are caused by changes in barometric pressure
combined with strong wind created wave action
The first recorded storm tide flood was the ''Julianenflut'', on 17 February 1164. In its wake, the Jadebusen
, (a bay on the coast of Germany), began to form.
A storm tide in 1228 is recorded to have killed more than 100,000 people.
In 1362, the Second Marcellus Flood
, also known as the ''Grote Manndrenke'', hit the entire southern coast of the North Sea. Chronicles of the time again record more than 100,000 deaths, large parts of the coast were lost permanently to the sea, including the now legendary lost city
In the 20th century, the North Sea flood of 1953
flooded several nations' coasts and cost more than 2,000 lives.
315 citizens of Hamburg died in the North Sea flood of 1962
Though rare, the North Sea has been the site of a number of historically documented tsunami
s. The Storegga Slide
s were a series of underwater landslides, in which a piece of the Norwegian continental shelf slid into the Norwegian Sea. The immense landslips occurred between 8150 BCE and 6000 BCE, and caused a tsunami up to high that swept through the North Sea, having the greatest effect on Scotland and the Faeroe Islands
The Dover Straits earthquake of 1580
is among the first recorded earthquakes in the North Sea measuring between 5.6 and 5.9 on the Richter scale. This event caused extensive damage in Calais
both through its tremors and possibly triggered a tsunami
, though this has never been confirmed. The theory is a vast underwater landslide in the English Channel
was triggered by the earthquake, which in turn caused a tsunami.
The tsunami triggered by the 1755 Lisbon earthquake
reached Holland, although the waves had lost their destructive power. The largest earthquake ever recorded in the United Kingdom was the 1931 Dogger Bank earthquake
, which measured 6.1 on the Richter magnitude scale
and caused a small tsunami that flooded parts of the British coast.
seas like the current North Sea have since long existed on the European continental shelf
. The rift
ing that formed the northern part of the Atlantic Ocean during the Jurassic
periods, from about , caused tectonic uplift
in the British Isles.
Since then, a shallow sea has almost continuously existed between the uplands of the Fennoscandian Shield
and the British Isles. This precursor of the current North Sea has grown and shrunk with the rise and fall of the eustatic
sea level during geologic time. Sometimes it was connected with other shallow seas, such as the sea above the Paris Basin
to the south-west, the Paratethys Sea
to the south-east, or the Tethys Ocean
to the south.
During the Late Cretaceous, about , all of modern mainland Europe except for Scandinavia was a scattering of islands.
By the Early Oligocene
, , the emergence of Western and Central Europe had almost completely separated the North Sea from the Tethys Ocean, which gradually shrank to become the Mediterranean as Southern Europe and South West Asia became dry land. The North Sea was cut off from the English Channel by a narrow land bridge
until that was breached by at least two catastrophic floods between 450,000 and 180,000 years ago. Since the start of the Quaternary
period about , the eustatic sea level has fallen during each glacial period and then risen again. Every time the ice sheet
reached its greatest extent, the North Sea became almost completely dry. The present-day coastline formed after the Last Glacial Maximum
when the sea began to flood the European continental shelf.
In 2006 a bone fragment was found while drilling for oil in the North Sea. Analysis indicated that it was a Plateosaurus
from 199 to 216 million years ago. This was the deepest dinosaur fossil ever found and the first find for Norway.
File:Doggerland.svg|Map showing hypothetical extent of Doggerland (c. 8,000 BC), which provided a land bridge between Great Britain and continental Europe
File:North Sea -.jpg|North Sea from De Koog, Texel island
File:Mediterranean Rupelian.jpg|The North Sea between and , as Central Europe became dry land
Fish and shellfish
s and other zooplankton
are plentiful in the North Sea. These tiny organisms are crucial elements of the food chain
supporting many species of fish.
Over 230 species of fish
live in the North Sea. Cod
, and sandeel
are all very common and are fished commercially.
Due to the various depths of the North Sea trenches and differences in salinity, temperature, and water movement, some fish such as blue-mouth redfish and rabbitfish
reside only in small areas of the North Sea.
s are also commonly found throughout the sea. Norway lobster
, deep-water prawns
, and brown shrimp
are all commercially fished, but other species of lobster
s and clam
s all live in the North Sea.
Recently non-indigenous species have become established including the Pacific oyster
and Atlantic jackknife clam
The coasts of the North Sea are home to nature reserve
s including the Ythan Estuary
Nature Preserve, and Farne Islands
in the UK and the Wadden Sea National Parks
in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands.
These locations provide breeding habitat
for dozens of bird species. Tens of millions of birds make use of the North Sea for breeding, feeding, or migratory stopovers every year. Populations of black-legged kittiwake
s, Atlantic puffin
s, northern gannet
s, northern fulmar
s, and species of petrel
s (divers), cormorant
s, and tern
s, and many other seabirds make these coasts popular for birdwatching
The North Sea is also home to marine mammals. Common seal
s, and harbour porpoise
s can be found along the coasts, at marine installations, and on islands. The very northern North Sea islands such as the Shetland Islands are occasionally home to a larger variety of pinnipeds
and ringed seal
s, and even walrus
. North Sea cetaceans
include various porpoise
Plant species in the North Sea include species of wrack
, among them bladder wrack
, knotted wrack
, and serrated wrack. Algae
, macroalgal, and kelp
, such as oarweed and laminaria hyperboria, and species of maerl
are found as well.
, formerly common in the entirety of the Wadden Sea, was nearly wiped out in the 20th century by a disease. Similarly, sea grass
used to coat huge tracts of ocean floor, but have been damaged by trawling and dredging have diminished its habitat and prevented its return. Invasive Japanese seaweed
has spread along the shores of the sea clogging harbours and inlets and has become a nuisance.
Biodiversity and conservation
Due to the heavy human populations and high level of industrialization along its shores, the wildlife of the North Sea has suffered from pollution, overhunting, and overfishing. Flamingo
s and pelican
s were once found along the southern shores of the North Sea, but became extinct over the second millennium. Walruses frequented the Orkney Islands through the mid-16th century, as both Sable Island and Orkney Islands lay within their normal range. Gray whale
s also resided in the North Sea but were driven to extinction in the Atlantic in the 17th century Other species have dramatically declined in population, though they are still found. North Atlantic right whale
, and other species were common in the North Sea until the 20th century, when numbers declined due to overfishing
Other factors like the introduction of non-indigenous species
and agricultural pollution
, human-induced eutrophication
, construction on coastal breeding and feeding grounds, sand and gravel extraction, offshore construction
, and heavy shipping traffic have also contributed to the decline.
For example, a resident killer whale
pod was lost in the 1960s, presumably due to the peak in PCB
pollution in this time period.
The OSPAR commission manages the OSPAR
convention to counteract the harmful effects of human activity on wildlife in the North Sea, preserve endangered species
, and provide environmental protection. All North Sea border states are signatories of the MARPOL 73/78
Accords, which preserve the marine environment by preventing pollution from ships. Germany, Denmark, and the Netherlands also have a trilateral agreement for the protection of the Wadden Sea
, or mudflat
s, which run along the coasts of the three countries on the southern edge of the North Sea.
The North Sea has had various names
through history. One of the earliest recorded names was ''Septentrionalis Oceanus'', or "Northern Ocean," which was cited by Pliny
. The name "North Sea" probably came into English, however, via the Dutch "Noordzee", who named it thus either in contrast with the Zuiderzee
("South Sea"), located south of Frisia
, or because the sea is generally to the north of the Netherlands. Before the adoption of "North Sea," the names used in English, in American English in particular, were "German Sea" or "German Ocean", referred to the Latin
names "Mare Germanicum" and "Oceanus Germanicus", and these persisted in use until the First World War.
Other common names in use for long periods were the Latin
terms "Mare Frisicum", as well as the English
equivalent, "Frisian Sea".
The modern names of the sea in the other local languages are: da|Vesterhavet ("West Sea") or ''Nordsøen'' , nl|Noordzee, nds-nl|Noordzee, french: Mer du Nord, fry|Noardsee, german: Nordsee, nds|Noordsee, Northern Frisian
: ''Weestsiie'' ("West Sea"), no|Nordsjøen , nn|Nordsjøen, sco|North Sea, and gd|An Cuan a Tuath.
File:Prima Europe tabula.jpg|A 1482 recreation of a map from Ptolemy's ''Geography'' showing the "Oceanus Germanicus"
File:Solar eclipse 1715May03 Halley map.png|Edmond Halley's solar eclipse 1715 map showing ''The German Sea''
North Sea has provided waterway access for commerce and conquest. Many areas have access to the North Sea because of its long coastline and the European rivers that empty into it.
There is little documentary evidence concerning the North Sea prior to the Roman conquest of Britain
in 43 CE, however archaeological evidence reveals diffusion of cultures and technologies from across or along the North Sea to Great Britain and Scandinavia and a reliance by some prehistoric cultures on fishing, whaling, and seaborne trade on the North Sea. The Romans established organised ports in Britain, which increased shipping, and began sustained trade
and many Scandinavian tribes participated in raids and wars against the Romans and Roman coinage and manufactures were important trade goods. When the Romans abandoned
Britain in 410, the Germanic Angles
, and Jutes
began the next great migration across the North Sea during the Migration Period
. They made successive invasions of the island from what is now the Netherlands, Denmark, and Germany.
The Viking Age
began in 793 with the attack on Lindisfarne
; for the next quarter-millennium the Vikings ruled the North Sea. In their superior longship
s, they raided, traded, and established colonies and outposts along the coasts of the sea. From the Middle Ages through the 15th century, the northern Europe
an coastal ports exported domestic goods, dyes, linen, salt, metal goods and wine. The Scandinavian and Baltic areas shipped grain, fish, naval necessities, and timber. In turn the North Sea countries imported high-grade cloths, spices, and fruits from the Mediterranean region.
Commerce during this era was mainly conducted by maritime trade due to underdeveloped roadways.
In the 13th century the Hanseatic League
, though centred on the Baltic Sea
, started to control most of the trade through important members and outposts on the North Sea.
The League lost its dominance in the 16th century, as neighbouring states took control of former Hanseatic
cities and outposts. Their internal conflict prevented effective cooperation and defence.
As the League lost control of its maritime cities, new trade route
s emerged that provided Europe with Asian, American, and African goods.
Age of sail
The 17th century Dutch Golden Age
during which Dutch herring
and whale fisheries reached an all time high
saw Dutch power at its zenith.
Important overseas colonies, a vast merchant marine, powerful navy and large profits made the Dutch the main challengers to an ambitious England. This rivalry led to the first three Anglo-Dutch Wars
between 1652 and 1673, which ended with Dutch victories.
After the Glorious Revolution
in 1688, the Dutch prince William
ascended to the English throne. With unified leadership, commercial, military, and political power began to shift from Amsterdam to London.
The British did not face a challenge to their dominance of the North Sea until the 20th century.
Tensions in the North Sea were again heightened in 1904 by the Dogger Bank incident
. During the Russo-Japanese War
, several ships of the Russian Baltic Fleet, which was on its way to the Far East, mistook British fishing boats for Japanese ships and fired on them, and then upon each other, near the Dogger Bank, nearly causing Britain to enter the war on the side of Japan.
During the First World War, Great Britain's Grand Fleet
and Germany's Kaiserliche Marine
faced each other in the North Sea,
which became the main theatre of the war
for surface action.
Britain's larger fleet and North Sea Mine Barrage
were able to establish an effective blockade for most of the war, which restricted the Central Powers
' access to many crucial resources.
Major battles included the Battle of Heligoland Bight
the Battle of the Dogger Bank
and the Battle of Jutland
World War I also brought the first extensive use of submarine warfare
, and a number of submarine actions occurred in the North Sea.
The Second World War also saw action in the North Sea,
though it was restricted more to aircraft reconnaissance, and action by fighter/bomber aircraft, submarines, and smaller vessels such as minesweepers
and torpedo boat
In the aftermath of the war, hundreds of thousands of tons of chemical weapons were disposed of by being dumped in the North Sea.
After the war, the North Sea lost much of its military significance because it is bordered only by NATO
member-states. However, it gained significant economic importance in the 1960s as the states around the North Sea began full-scale exploitation of its oil and gas resources
. The North Sea continues to be an active trade route.
Countries that border the North Sea all claim the of territorial waters
, within which they have exclusive fishing rights.
The Common Fisheries Policy
of the European Union
(EU) exists to coordinate fishing rights and assist with disputes between EU states and the EU border state of Norway.
After the discovery of mineral resources in the North Sea, the Convention on the Continental Shelf
established country rights largely divided along the median line. The median line is defined as the line "every point of which is equidistant from the nearest points of the baselines from which the breadth of the territorial sea of each State is measured".
The ocean floor border between Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark was only reapportioned after protracted negotiations and a judgement of the International Court of Justice
Oil and gas
As early as 1859, oil was discovered in onshore areas around the North Sea and natural gas
as early as 1910.
Onshore resources, for example the K12-B
field in the Netherlands continue to be exploited today.
Offshore test drilling began in 1966 and then, in 1969, Phillips Petroleum Company
discovered the Ekofisk oil field
distinguished by valuable, low-sulphur oil.
Commercial exploitation began in 1971 with tankers
and, after 1975, by a pipeline
, first to Teesside
, England and then, after 1977, also to Emden
The exploitation of the North Sea oil reserves
began just before the 1973 oil crisis
, and the climb of international oil prices made the large investments needed for extraction much more attractive.
The start in 1973 of the oil reserves by UK allowed them to stop the declining position in the international trade in 1974, and a huge increase after the discovery and exploitation of the huge oil field by Phillips group in 1977 as the Brae field
Although the production costs are relatively high, the quality of the oil, the political stability of the region, and the proximity of important markets in western Europe
has made the North Sea an important oil-producing region.
The largest single humanitarian catastrophe in the North Sea oil industry
was the destruction of the offshore oil platform Piper Alpha
in 1988 in which 167 people lost their lives.
Besides the Ekofisk oil field, the Statfjord oil field
is also notable as it was the cause of the first pipeline to span the Norwegian trench
. The largest natural gas field
in the North Sea, Troll gas field
, lies in the Norwegian trench, dropping over , requiring the construction of the enormous Troll A platform
to access it.
The price of Brent Crude
, one of the first types of oil extracted from the North Sea, is used today as a standard price for comparison for crude oil
from the rest of the world. The North Sea contains western Europe's largest oil and natural gas reserves and is one of the world's key non-OPEC producing regions.
In the UK sector of the North Sea, the oil industry invested £14.4 billion in 2013, and was on track to spend £13 billion in 2014. Industry body Oil & Gas UK
put the decline down to rising costs, lower production, high tax rates, and less exploration.
As of January 2018 The North Sea region contains 184 offshore rigs, which makes it the region with the highest number of offshore rigs in the world.
The North Sea is Europe's main fishery accounting for over 5% of international commercial fish caught.
Fishing in the North Sea is concentrated in the southern part of the coastal waters. The main method of fishing is trawling
In 1995, the total volume of fish and shellfish caught in the North Sea was approximately 3.5 million tonnes. Besides saleable fish, it is estimated that one million tonnes of unmarketable by-catch
is caught and discarded to die each year.
In recent decades, overfishing
has left many fisheries unproductive, disturbing marine food chain
dynamics and costing jobs in the fishing industry
. Herring, cod and plaice fisheries may soon face the same plight as mackerel fishing, which ceased in the 1970s due to overfishing.
The objective of the European Union Common Fisheries Policy
is to minimize the environmental impact associated with resource use by reducing fish discards, increasing productivity of fisheries, stabilising markets of fisheries and fish processing, and supplying fish at reasonable prices for the consumer.
Whaling was an important economic activity from the 9th until the 13th century for Flemish whalers.
The medieval Flemish, Basque and Norwegian whalers who were replaced in the 16th century by Dutch, English, Danes and Germans, took massive numbers of whales and dolphins and nearly depleted the right whales. This activity likely led to the extinction of the Atlantic population of the once common gray whale
. By 1902 the whaling had ended.
After being absent for 300 years a single gray whale returned, it probably was the first of many more to find its way through the now ice-free Northwest Passage
In addition to oil, gas, and fish, the states along the North Sea also take millions of cubic metres per year of sand
from the ocean floor. These are used for beach nourishment
, land reclamation
Rolled pieces of amber
may be picked up on the east coast of England.
Due to the strong prevailing winds
, and shallow water, countries on the North Sea, particularly Germany and Denmark, have used the shore for wind power
since the 1990s. The North Sea is the home of one of the first large-scale offshore wind farm
s in the world, Horns Rev
1, completed in 2002. Since then many other wind farm
s have been commissioned in the North Sea (and elsewhere). As of 2013 the 630 megawatt
(MW) London Array
is the largest offshore wind farm in the world, with the 504 (MW) Greater Gabbard wind farm
the second largest, followed by the 367 MW Walney Wind Farm
. All are off the coast of the UK. These projects will be dwarfed by subsequent wind farms that are in the pipeline, including Dogger Bank
at 4,800 MW, Norfolk Bank (7,200 MW), and Irish Sea (4,200 MW). At the end of June 2013 total European combined offshore wind energy capacity was 6,040 MW. UK installed 513.5 MW offshore windpower in the first half-year of 2013.
[The European offshore wind industry -key trends and statistics 1st half 2013 ]
The expansion of offshore wind farms has met with some resistance. Concerns have included shipping collisions and environmental effects
on ocean ecology and wildlife such as fish and migratory birds, however, these concerns were found to be negligible in a long-term study in Denmark released in 2006 and again in a UK government study in 2009.
There are also concerns about reliability, and the rising costs of constructing and maintaining offshore wind farms. Despite these, development of North Sea wind power is continuing, with plans for additional wind farms off the coasts of Germany, the Netherlands, and the UK. There have also been proposals for a transnational power grid in the North Sea
to connect new offshore wind farms
Energy production from tidal power
is still in a pre-commercial stage. The European Marine Energy Centre
has installed a wave testing system at Billia Croo on the Orkney mainland and a tidal power testing station on the nearby island of Eday
. Since 2003, a prototype Wave Dragon
energy converter has been in operation at Nissum Bredning fjord of northern Denmark.
The beaches and coastal waters of the North Sea are destinations for tourists. The Belgian, Dutch, German and Danish coasts
are developed for tourism. The North Sea coast of the United Kingdom has tourist destinations with beach resorts and golf courses. Fife
is famous for its links
golf courses; the coastal city of St. Andrews
is renowned as the "Home of Golf". The coast of North East England
has several tourist towns such as Scarborough
, Robin Hood's Bay
and Seaton Carew
, and has some long sandy beaches and links golfing locations such as Seaton Carew Golf Club
and Goswick Golf Club.
The North Sea Trail
is a long-distance trail
linking seven countries around the North Sea. Windsurfing and sailing are popular sports because of the strong winds. Mudflat hiking
, recreational fishing
are among other activities.
The climatic conditions on the North Sea coast have been claimed to be healthy. As early as the 19th century, travellers visited the North Sea coast for curative and restorative vacations. The sea air, temperature, wind, water, and sunshine are counted among the beneficial conditions that are said to activate the body's defences, improve circulation, strengthen the immune system, and have healing effects on the skin and the respiratory system.
The Wadden Sea
in Denmark, Germany and the Netherlands is an UNESCO World Heritage Site
The North Sea is important for marine transport and its shipping lanes are among the busiest in the world.
Major ports are located along its coasts: Rotterdam
, the busiest port in Europe and the fourth busiest port in the world by tonnage
(was 16th) and Hamburg
(was 27th), Bremen
, both in the top 30 busiest container seaports
, as well as the Port of Bruges-Zeebrugge
, Europe's leading ro-ro
Fishing boats, service boats for offshore industries, sport and pleasure craft, and merchant ships to and from North Sea ports
and Baltic ports
must share routes on the North Sea. The Dover Strait alone sees more than 400 commercial vessels a day.
Because of this volume, navigation in the North Sea can be difficult in high traffic zones, so ports have established elaborate vessel traffic service
s to monitor and direct ships into and out of port.
The North Sea coasts are home to numerous canals and canal systems to facilitate traffic between and among rivers, artificial harbours, and the sea. The Kiel Canal
, connecting the North Sea with the Baltic Sea, is the most heavily used artificial seaway in the world reporting an average of 89 ships per day not including sporting boats and other small watercraft in 2009.
It saves an average of , instead of the voyage around the Jutland
The North Sea Canal
with the North Sea.
* European Atlas of the Seas
* List of languages of the North Sea
* North Sea Commission
* Old map: Manuscript chart of the North Sea, VOC, ca.1690
(high resolution zoomable scan)
* OSPAR Commission Homepage
an international commission designed to protect and conserve the North-East Atlantic and its resourcesNorth Sea Region Programme 2007–2013
transnational cooperation programme under the European Regional Development Fund
Category:Bodies of water of Belgium
Category:Bodies of water of England
Category:Bodies of water of the Netherlands
Category:Federal waterways in Germany
Category:Marginal seas of the Atlantic Ocean
Category:Seas of Denmark
Category:Seas of France
Category:Seas of Germany
Category:Seas of Norway
Category:Seas of the United Kingdom