Sea is a marginal sea of the
Atlantic Ocean located between
Great Britain, Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and
France. An epeiric (or "shelf") sea on the European continental shelf,
it connects to the ocean through the
English Channel in the south and
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.
1.1 Major features
1.3.1 Temperature and salinity
1.3.2 Water circulation and tides
188.8.131.52 Selected tide ranges
2 Coastal management
2.1 Storm tides
4 Natural history
Fish and shellfish
4.3 Marine mammals
4.5 Biodiversity and conservation
5.2 Early history
5.3 Age of sail
5.4 Modern era
6.1 Political status
6.2 Oil and gas
6.4 Mineral resources
6.5 Renewable energy
6.7 Marine traffic
7 See also
10 Further reading
11 External links
Main article: Geography of the North Sea
See also: List of rivers discharging into the North Sea
Eng Ch=English Channel
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 Norway, Denmark, Germany, the
Netherlands, 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 Baltic
Sea via the
Skagerrak and Kattegat, narrow straits that separate
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 Shetland, Orkney,
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
Meuse watershed. 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 90 metres (300 ft). The only exception is
the Norwegian trench, which extends parallel to the Norwegian
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 (2,379 ft).
The 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 of 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
International Hydrographic Organization
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
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
On the North. From the North point (Fethaland Point) of the Mainland
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 of the
Skagerrak [A line joining
Hanstholm (57°07′N 8°36′E / 57.117°N 8.600°E /
57.117; 8.600) and the Naze (Lindesnes, 58°N 7°E / 58°N
7°E / 58; 7)].
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
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
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 the North
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
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
Tidal range [m]
Geographical and historical features
Mouth of River Dee in Scotland
Mouth of Tyne estuary
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 Thames Estuary
inner end of Thames Estuary
dune coast east of the Strait of Dover
dune coast west of Rhine–Meuse–
inner end of the southernmost estuary of Rhine–Meuse–
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
east of IJsselmeer, outlet of
IJssel river, the eastern branch of the
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
Sea in Nordfriesland
northern end of Wadden
Sea in Denmark
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
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
Sea (Wadden Sea)
have coastlines that are mainly sandy and straight owing to longshore
drift, particularly along
Belgium and Denmark.
Further information: Afsluitdijk, Delta Works, Flood control in the
Netherlands, Thames Barrier, and
Afsluitdijk (Closure-dike) is a major dam in the Netherlands
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.:[302,303] As early as 500 BC, people
were constructing artificial dwelling hills higher than the prevailing
flood levels.:[306,308] 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
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 flats.
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
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 Hamburg
died in the North
Sea flood of 1962.:[79,86]
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
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 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
Jurassic and 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
Map showing hypothetical extent of
Doggerland (c. 8,000 BC), which
provided a land bridge between
Great Britain and continental Europe
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 North
Sea became almost completely dry. The present-day
coastline formed after the
Last Glacial Maximum
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 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.
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
The coasts of the North
Sea are home to nature reserves including the
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 Sea
for 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, Scotland
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 Sea
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. 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
Sea has 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
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
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 decline.
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 Sea
A 1482 recreation of a map from Ptolemy's Geography showing the
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 until the First World War.
Other common names in use for long periods were the
Latin terms "Mare
Frisicum", as well as their English equivalents, "Frisian
The modern names of the sea in local languages are: Danish: Nordsøen,
Dutch: Noordzee, Dutch Low Saxon: Noordzee, French: Mer du Nord, West
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
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 Angles, 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
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 routes emerged that provided Europe
with Asian, American, and African goods.
Age of sail
Painting of the
Four Days' Battle
Four Days' Battle of 1666 by Willem van de Velde the
The 17th century
Dutch Golden Age
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.
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
SMS Blücher sinks in the Battle of
Dogger Bank on 25
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 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. The North
Sea continues to be an active trade
The exclusive economic zones in the North Sea
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
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
After the discovery of mineral resources in the North Sea, the
Convention on the Continental Shelf
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
Oil and gas
Further information: North
Sea oil and List of oil and gas fields of
the North Sea
As early as 1859, oil was discovered in onshore areas around the North
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, 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
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 & Gas UK put the decline down to rising costs,
lower production, high tax rates, and less exploration.
A trawler in Nordstrand, Germany
Fishing in the North Sea
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
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 Sea
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 megawatt (MW)
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 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
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.
European Marine Energy Centre
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 beach in Scheveningen,
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
North East England has several tourist towns such as Scarborough,
Bridlington, Seahouses, Whitby,
Robin Hood's Bay
Robin Hood's Bay and Seaton Carew. The
North East England
North East England has long sandy beaches and links golfing
locations such as
Seaton Carew Golf Club and Goswick Golf Club.
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[update],
Hamburg (was 27th), Bremen/
Bremerhaven and Felixstowe, both
in the top 30 busiest container seaports, as well as the Port of
Bruges-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
Jutland peninsula. The North
Sea Canal connects
the North Sea.
European Atlas of the Seas
List of languages of the North Sea
List of the largest islands in the North Sea
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original-url status unknown (link) (910 KB)
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OSPAR Commission Homepage an international commission designed to
protect and conserve the North-East Atlantic and its resources
Sea Region Programme 2007–2013 transnational cooperation
programme under the European Regional Development Fund
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