The NORTH SEA is a marginal sea of the
Atlantic Ocean located between
Great Britain ,
Germany , the
France . An epeiric (or "shelf") sea on the European 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 970
kilometres (600 mi) long and 580 kilometres (360 mi) wide, with an
area of around 570,000 square kilometres (220,000 sq mi).
Sea has long been the site of important European shipping
lanes as well as a major fishery . The sea is a popular destination
for recreation and tourism in bordering countries and more recently
has developed into a rich source of energy resources including fossil
fuels , wind , 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
Sea was the centre of the Vikings\' rise . Subsequently, the
Hanseatic League , the
Netherlands , and the British each sought to
dominate the North
Sea and thus the access to the markets and
resources of the world. As Germany's only outlet to the ocean, the
Sea continued to be strategically important through both World
The coast of the North
Sea presents a diversity of geological and
geographical features. In the north, deep fjords and sheer cliffs mark
the Norwegian and Scottish coastlines, whereas in the south the coast
consists primarily of sandy beaches and wide mudflats . Due to the
dense population, heavy industrialization, and intense use of the sea
and area surrounding it, there have been a number of environmental
issues affecting the sea's ecosystems. Adverse environmental issues
— commonly including overfishing , industrial and agricultural
runoff , dredging , 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.
* 1 Geography
* 1.1 Major features
* 1.2 Extent
* 1.3 Hydrology
* 1.3.1 Temperature and salinity
* 1.3.2 Water circulation and tides
* 220.127.116.11 Selected tide ranges
* 1.4 Coasts
* 2.1 Storm tides
* 2.1.1 Tsunamis
* 3 Geology
* 4 Natural history
Fish and shellfish
* 4.2 Birds
* 4.3 Marine mammals
* 4.4 Flora
* 4.5 Biodiversity and conservation
* 4.6 Whaling
* 5 History
* 5.1 Name
* 5.2 Early history
* 5.3 Age of sail
* 5.4 Modern era
* 6 Economy
* 6.1 Political status
* 6.2 Oil and gas
* 6.4 Mineral resources
* 6.5 Renewable energy
* 6.6 Tourism
* 6.7 Marine traffic
* 7 See also
* 8 Notes
* 9 References
* 10 Further reading
* 11 External links
Main article: Geography of the North
Sea See also: List of rivers
discharging into the North
Sea SK KA ENG CH Sk=
Sea is bounded by the
Orkney Islands and east coast of
Great Britain to the west and the northern and central European
mainland to the east and south, including
Belgium , 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
Sea via the
Kattegat , narrow straits that
Norway and Sweden respectively. In the north it
is bordered by the
Shetland Islands , and connects with the Norwegian
Sea , which lies in the very north-eastern part of the Atlantic.
Sea is more than 970 kilometres (600 mi) long and 580
kilometres (360 mi) wide, with an area of 570,000 square kilometres
(220,000 sq mi) and a volume of 54,000 cubic kilometres (13,000 cu
mi). Around the edges of the North
Sea are sizeable islands and
archipelagos , including
Orkney , and the
Frisian Islands .
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 – Meuse
watershed. Around 185 million people live in the catchment area of
the rivers discharging into the North
Sea encompassing some highly
For the most part, the sea lies on the European continental shelf
with a mean depth of 90 metres (300 ft). The only exception is the
Norwegian trench , which extends parallel to the Norwegian shoreline
Oslo to an area north of
Bergen . It is between 20 and 30
kilometres (12 and 19 mi) wide and has a maximum depth of 725 metres
Dogger Bank , a vast moraine , or accumulation of unconsolidated
glacial debris, rises to a mere 15 to 30 metres (50–100 ft) 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 fathoms , (forty fathoms and
fourteen fathoms or 73 and 26 m 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 200 miles (320 km) east
Dundee , Scotland. The feature is a series of asymmetrical trenches
between 20 and 30 kilometres (12 and 19 mi) long, 1 and 2 kilometres
(0.62 and 1.24 mi) wide and up to 230 metres (750 ft) deep.
Other areas which are less deep are
Cleaver Bank ,
Fisher Bank and
Noordhinder Bank .
International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the
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)
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
_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 (60°51′N 0°53′W / 60.850°N 0.883°W / 60.850;
-0.883 ) 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
Temperature And Salinity
The average temperature in summer is 17 °C (63 °F) and 6 °C (43
°F) 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 0 to 4 °C (32 to 39
°F) and in July between 13 to 18 °C (55 to 64 °F). The winter
months see frequent gales and storms.
The salinity averages between 34 to 35 grams of salt per litre of
water. The salinity has the highest variability where there is fresh
water inflow, such as at the
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.
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 in shore.
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. In
Sea the average tide difference in wave amplitude is between
0 to 8 metres (0 to 26 ft).
Ocean currents mainly entering via
the north entrance exiting along Norwegian coast
The Kelvin tide of the Atlantic ocean is a semidiurnal wave that
travels northward. Some of the energy from this wave travels through
English Channel into the North Sea. The wave still travels
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 into the North Sea.
Selected Tide Ranges
• Localization of the tide-gauges listed
• Tide times after
Bergen (negative = before)
• The three amphidromic centers
marshes = green
mudflats = greenish blue
lagoons = bright blue
dunes = yellow
sea dikes= purple
moraines near the coast= light brown
rock-based coasts = grayish brown
(from calendars) Maximal tidal
GEOGRAPHICAL AND HISTORICAL FEATURES
Mouth of River Dee in
Mouth of Tyne estuary
Kingston upon Hull
Kingston upon Hull
northern side of
southern side of
Humber estuary farther seaward
Lincolnshire coast north of the Wash
mouth of Great Ouse into the Wash
eastern edge of the Wash
East Anglian coast north of
inner end of
dune coast east of the
Strait of Dover
dune coast west of Rhine–Meuse–
inner end of the southernmost estuary of Rhine–Meuse–Scheldt
borderline of estuary delta and sedimentation delta of the Rhine
mouth of the Uitwateringskanaal of Oude Rijn into the sea
northeastern end of
Holland dune coast west of
IJsselmeer , outlet of
IJssel river, the eastern branch of
island in front of Ems river estuary
east side of Ems river estuary
seaward end of
Bremer Industriehäfen , inner
artificial tide limit of river Weser, 4 km upstream of the city
before onset of
Weser Correction (
Weser straightening works)
Bremen city centre 1879
before onset of
Weser Correction (
Weser straightening works)
Bremen city centre 1900
Große Weserbrücke , 5 years after completion of
seaward end of
Hamburg St. Pauli
St. Pauli Piers , inner part of
Sylt island in front of
coast of Wadden
northern end of Wadden
Danish dune coast, entrance of Ringkøbing
Danish dune coast, entrance of _Nissum Bredning_ lagoon , part of
Skagen have the same values.
Skagerrak , Southern end of
Norway , east of an amphidromic point
North of that amphidromic point, rhythm of the tides irregular
Rhythm of the tides regular
Main article: Coastline of the North
Sea The German North Sea
The eastern and western coasts of the North
Sea are jagged, formed by
glaciers 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 fjords and
archipelagos . 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
Belgium and in
East Anglia the littoral is low and
marshy. The east coast and south-east of the North
have coastlines that are mainly sandy and straight owing to longshore
drift , particularly along
Belgium and Denmark.
Delta Works , Flood control in the
Thames Barrier , and
Zuiderzee Works The
Afsluitdijk (Closure-dike) is a major dam in the
The southern coastal areas were originally amphibious flood plains
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 and geestland . : As early as 500 BC, people were
constructing artificial dwelling hills 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
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
Coastal management 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 9 metres (30 ft) 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.
Main article: Storm tides of the North
Sea flood of 1953
Storm surges threaten, in particular, the coasts of the Netherlands,
Belgium, Germany, and
Denmark and low lying areas of eastern England
The Wash and Fens . Storm surges are caused by
changes in barometric pressure combined with strong wind created wave
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 as large parts of the coast were lost permanently to
the sea, including the now legendary lost city of
Rungholt . In the
20th century, the North
Sea flood of 1953 flooded several nations'
coasts and cost more than 2,000 lives. 315 citizens of
in the North
Sea flood of 1962 . :
Though rare, the North
Sea has been the site of a number of
historically documented tsunamis . The Storegga Slides 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 20
metres (66 ft) 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
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
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.
Main articles: Geology of the North
Sea and Geology of southern North
Sea The North
Sea between 34 million years ago and 28 million
years ago , as Central
Europe became dry land
Shallow epicontinental seas like the current North
Sea have since
long existed on the European continental shelf . The rifting that
formed the northern part of the
Atlantic Ocean during the
Cretaceous periods, from about 150 million years ago , 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
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
Sea to the south-east, or the Tethys
Ocean to the south.
Map showing hypothetical extent of
Doggerland (c. 8,000 BC), which
provided a land bridge between
Great Britain and continental
During the Late Cretaceous, about 85 million years ago , all of
Europe except for
Scandinavia was a scattering of
islands. By the Early
Oligocene , 34 to 28 million years ago , 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 2.6 million years ago , the
eustatic sea level has fallen during each glacial period and then
risen again. Every time the ice sheet reached its greatest extent, the
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.
FISH AND SHELLFISH
See also: List of fish of the North
Sea Pacific oysters , blue
mussels and cockles in the Wadden
Sea in the
Copepods 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
, haddock , whiting , saithe , plaice , sole , mackerel , herring ,
pouting , sprat , and sandeel are all very common and are fished
commercially. Due to the various depths of the North
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.
Crustaceans are also commonly found throughout the sea. Norway
lobster , deep-water prawns , and brown shrimp are all commercially
fished, but other species of lobster , shrimp , oyster , mussels and
clams all live in the North Sea. Recently non-indigenous species have
become established including the
Pacific oyster and Atlantic jackknife
The coasts of the North
Sea are home to nature reserves including the
Ythan Estuary ,
Fowlsheugh 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
breeding, feeding, or migratory stopovers every year. Populations of
black legged kittiwakes, Atlantic puffins, northern fulmars , and
species of petrels , gannets , seaducks , loons (divers), cormorants ,
gulls , auks , and terns , and many other seabirds make these coasts
popular for birdwatching .
A female bottlenose dolphin with her young in
Moray Firth ,
Sea is also home to marine mammals. Common seals , and
harbour porpoises can be found along the coasts, at marine
installations, and on islands. The very northern North
such as the
Shetland Islands are occasionally home to a larger variety
of pinnipeds including bearded , harp , hooded and ringed seals , and
even walrus . North
Sea cetaceans include various porpoise , dolphin
and whale species.
Phytoplankton bloom in the North
Plant species in the North
Sea include species of wrack , among them
bladder wrack , knotted wrack , and serrated wrack.
macroalgal, and kelp , such as oarweed and laminaria hyperboria, and
species of maerl are found as well. Eelgrass , 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
suffered from pollution, overhunting, and overfishing. Flamingos and
pelicans were once found along the southern shores of the North Sea,
but became extinct over the 2nd millennium. Walruses frequented the
Orkney Islands through the mid-16th century, as both Sable Island and
Orkney Islands lay within its normal range. Gray whales 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 whales , sturgeon ,
shad , rays , skates , salmon , and other species were common in the
Sea until the 20th century, when numbers declined due to
overfishing . Other factors like the introduction of non-indigenous
species , industrial and agricultural pollution , trawling and
dredging , 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
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.
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
mudflats , which run along the coasts of the three countries on the
southern edge of the North Sea.
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 .
Once 16-metre (50 ft) "fish" were taken in large quantities at the
mouth of the River
Seine . Perhaps the gray whale will someday return
to its former
Seine estuary breeding grounds and to the feeding
grounds of the Wadden
Sea where it will again roil the sediments and
release its benthic nutrients that will benefit the ecosystem.
Main article: History of the North
_ A 1482 recreation of a map from Ptolemy's Geography _ showing
the "Oceanus Germanicus" _
Edmond Halley 's solar eclipse 1715
map showing The German Sea_
Through history various names have been used for the North Sea. 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 were "German Sea" or "German Ocean", referred to the Latin
names "Mare Gemanicum" and "Oceanus Germanicus", and these persisted
in use into the 1830s.
Other common names in use for long periods were the
Latin terms "Mare
Frisicum", as well as their English equivalents, "Frisian Sea".
The modern names of the sea in local languages are: Danish :
_Nordsøen_, Dutch : _Noordzee_, Dutch Low Saxon : _Noordzee_, French
: _Mer du Nord_, Frisian : _Noardsee_, German : _Nordsee_, Low German
: _Noordsee_, Northern Frisian : _Weestsiie_ (literally meaning "West
Sea"), Norwegian : _Nordsjøen_, Nynorsk : _Nordsjøen_, Scots :
_German Ocean_, Swedish : _Nordsjön_, Scottish Gaelic : _An Cuan a
Tuath_, West Flemish : _Nôordzêe_ and
Zeeuws : _Noôrdzeê_.
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. The
British Isles had
been protected from invasion by the North
Sea waters until the Roman
conquest of Britain in 43 CE. The Romans established organised ports,
which increased shipping, and began sustained trade. When the Romans
abandoned Britain in 410, the Germanic
Saxons , and Jutes
began the next great migration across the North
Sea during the
Migration Period . They made successive invasions of the island.
Viking Age began in 793 with the attack on
Lindisfarne ; for the
next quarter-millennium the Vikings ruled the North Sea. In their
superior longships , they raided, traded, and established colonies and
outposts along the coasts of the sea. From the Middle Ages through the
15th century, the northern European 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
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 routes emerged that provided
Asian, American, and African goods.
AGE OF SAIL
Painting of the Four Days\' Battle of 1666 by Willem van de
Velde the Younger
The 17th century
Dutch Golden Age during which Dutch herring , cod
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
Glorious Revolution the Dutch prince William ascended to the
English throne. With both countries united, commercial, military, and
political power shifted from
Amsterdam to London. The British did not
face a challenge to their dominance of the North
Sea until the 20th
_ German cruiser SMS Blücher_ sinks in the Battle of Dogger Bank
on 25 January 1915.
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
Jutland . World War I also brought the first extensive use of
submarine warfare , and a number of submarine actions occurred in the
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 boats .
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
Sea began full-scale exploitation of its oil and gas resources .
Sea continues to be an active trade route.
The exclusive economic zones in the North
Countries that border the North
Sea all claim the 12 nautical miles
(22 km; 14 mi) 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
Denmark was only reapportioned after protracted
negotiations and a judgement of the
International Court of Justice
International Court of Justice .
OIL AND GAS
Further information: North
Sea oil and List of oil and gas fields of
As early as 1859, oil was discovered in onshore areas around the
Sea and natural gas as early as 1910. Oil platform
Statfjord A with the flotel Polymarine
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 , Germany.
The exploitation of the North
Sea oil reserves began just before the
1973 oil crisis
1973 oil crisis , and the climb of international oil prices made the
large investments needed for extraction much more attractive.
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
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
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 300
metres (980 ft) 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
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 "> A trawler in Nordstrand,
Fishing in the North
Sea is Europe's main fishery accounting for over 5% of
international commercial fish caught.
Fishing in the North
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 fish, it is estimated that one million tonnes of
unmarketable by-catch is caught and discarded 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.
Unpolished amber stones, in varying hues
In addition to oil, gas, and fish, the states along the North Sea
also take millions of cubic metres per year of sand and gravel from
the ocean floor. These are used for beach nourishment , land
reclamation and construction. Rolled pieces of amber may be picked up
on the east coast of England.
Further information: Renewable energy in the
European Union and List
of offshore wind farms in the North
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 farms in the world,
Horns Rev 1,
completed in 2002. Since then many other wind farms have been
commissioned in the North
Sea (and elsewhere). As of 2013 the 630
London Array is the largest offshore wind farm in the
world, with the 504 (MW)
Greater Gabbard wind farm
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 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
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
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
Wave Dragon energy converter has been in operation at Nissum
Bredning fjord of northern Denmark.
The beach in
Netherlands in c. 1900
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.
Scotland is famous for its links golf courses. The coastal
St. Andrews being renowned as the "Home of Golf". The coast of
North East England has several tourist towns such as Scarborough ,
Whitby , Robin Hood\'s Bay and Seaton Carew
. The coast of
North East England has long sandy beaches and links
golfing locations such as
Seaton Carew Golf Club and Goswick Golf
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
and birdwatching are among other activities.
The climatic conditions on the North
Sea coast have been claimed to
be healthful. As early as the 19th century, travellers used their
stays on the North
Sea coast as 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.
See also: List of 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 as of 2013 ,
Hamburg (was 27th),
Bremerhaven and Felixstowe ,
both in the top 30 busiest container seaports , as well as the Port
Zeebrugge , Europe's leading ro-ro port.
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 services to
monitor and direct ships into and out of port.
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 250 nautical miles
(460 km; 290 mi), instead of the voyage around the
Sea Canal connects
Amsterdam with the North Sea.
* Geography portal
* Nautical portal
European Atlas of the Seas
* List of languages of the North
* List of the largest islands in the North
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