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Mediterranean

Summary

Though almost entirely enclosed, the Mediterranean is quite deep (average depth 1 500 m). There is little tidal variation, with amplitudes below 50 cm in most places. The climate is warm and dry. The water – also warm – is highly saline. While it is poor in nutrients, it has a rich biodiversity. Home to the ancient cities of Egypt, Crete, Mycenae, Greece and Rome, the Mediterranean is the birthplace of European civilisation.

The EU has almost 4 000 km of Mediterranean coastline. The Sea is Europe’s border with Africa. Only 30 km of water separates Gibraltar from Africa, though at some points the two continents are 1 600 km apart.
The world’s leading tourist destination, the Mediterranean is also a major shipping channel, with almost a third of all international cargo traffic passing through it. Aquaculture (fish farming) is well established, and the fishing industry (mainly small-scale) is a significant source of employment.

The Mediterranean.

Population

150 million people live along the shores of the Mediterranean. Many cities have over a million inhabitants, including Athens, Rome, Algiers, Barcelona, Marseilles, Beirut, Tunis, Tel-Aviv-Jaffa... A little further from the coast, the enormous metropolis of Cairo has a population of over 15 million.

Exploitation of resources

More notable in terms of employment (250 000 fishermen) than production (about 1 million tonnes declared in 2007), fishing is mainly on a small scale. Various different species are caught: sardine, anchovy and hake dominate.

There are also landings from deep-sea fishing, the largest centres of which are found in this region: Deep-sea fishing focuses on these species, but also on deep-water rose shrimp, blue fin tuna and swordfish. Overfishing is a problem for the majority of fishery resources. Marine aquaculture (275 000 tonnes in 2007) is well developed, with farmed bass and sea bream and blue fin tuna fattening. The exploitation of offshore hydrocarbons is beginning in the Adriatic and off the coast of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

There are also landings from deep-sea fishing, the largest centres of which are found in this region: Deep-sea fishing focuses on these species, but also on deep-water rose shrimp, blue fin tuna and swordfish. Overfishing is a problem for the majority of fishery resources. Marine aquaculture (275 000 tonnes in 2007) is well developed, with farmed bass and sea bream and blue fin tuna fattening. The exploitation of offshore hydrocarbons is beginning in the Adriatic and off the coast of Tunisia, Libya and Egypt.

Transport of goods

The Mediterranean is a key world maritime route with 30 % of worldwide traffic, 25 % of oil transport, and 450 ports and terminals. The largest port, Marseilles (France), is ranked fourth in Europe. Oil and natural gas are transported from small specialised ports on the southern shores, such as Arzew (Algeria) and Sidi Kerir/Alexandria (Egypt) to Marseilles and Augusta, Trieste and Genoa (Italy). Container traffic is experiencing particular expansion, notably in Algeciras (Spain), a large hub at the entrance to the Mediterranean that now faces competition from Tanger-Med (Morocco).

Table: The large Mediterranean ports

General traffic (1)

Container traffic (2)

Large ports

Marseilles (France)

Algeciras (Spain)

Genoa (Italy)

Valencia (Spain)

Barcelona (Spain)

96

75

59

57

51

0.8

3.4

1.9

3.0

2.6

Container ports

Gioia-Tauro (Italy)

Marsaxlokk (Malta)

La Spezia (Italy)

3.4

1.9

1.2

(1) Million tonnes – Data for 2007
(2) Million TEU (Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units) – Data for 2007, rounded to the nearest hundred thousand (Source: Special issue of “Le Marin”: “Shipping 2008”)

Passenger transport

The largest port is that of Piraeus (Greece) which transports 11.5 million passengers each year to the Greek islands, followed by the port of Reggio de Calabria (Italy) which transports 10.5 million passengers to Sicily, and Barcelona and Alicante (Spain) with 5 million passengers to the Balearic Islands (2006). The main routes for links between the north and south shores are Spain-Morocco (6.5 million), France-Algeria (1.8 million) and Italy-Tunisia.

Tourism

This is the number one economic activity. Nearly 250 million people visited the Mediterranean countries in 2005, in other words 30 % of tourists worldwide. These figures are reflected in the vast number of beach, sailing and cruise activities. The Mediterranean is the second most popular area worldwide for cruises, with 1 million cruise passengers.

Shipbuilding

Tourism stimulates this activity by encouraging the development of shipyards for luxury yachts (France and Italy) and car ferries. Military shipbuilding is also a very important industry, particularly in Italy. Turkish and Croatian shipyards are currently in full expansion.

Maritime services

In this area of intense maritime traffic, important maritime safety mechanisms have been implemented: rescue operations, anti-pollution devices, etc. They are coordinated by the European Maritime Safety Agency.

Defence

This strategic area hosts large naval bases of coastal States (Cartagena, Toulon, La Spezia) and the United Kingdom (Gibraltar, Cyprus).

Environment

The Mediterranean is a unique ecosystem. Although it covers only 0.7 % of the worldwide marine surface area, it holds 9 % of its biodiversity. But it is a closed sea, bordered by heavily populated and industrialised coastlines that are visited by millions of tourists, crossed by intense maritime traffic and fed by urbanised river basins that are industrialised and farmed intensively (Ebro, Rhone, Po, Arno, Tiber, Nile). This situation motivated the adoption of the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean .

Research

The Mediterranean States have many marine research centres that are mainly working on the environment, fisheries and aquaculture. Numerous joint programmes focus on the sustainable exploitation of living resources, the protection of marine ecosystems, integrated coastal zone management, the impacts of climate change, marine pollution, etc.

Governance

The majority of Mediterranean waters are under the high seas regime. Territorial waters, established by coastal States over a width of 12 nautical miles (6 nautical miles for Greece) represent 16 % of the total surface area. Few states have asked for an exclusive economic zone, but some have declared new types of zones, which are not covered by the law of the sea, such as fishing zones or ecological protection zones. These specific zones cover 31 % of the surface of the Mediterranean.

Each State manages fishing in its waters. The European Union manages the fishing grounds of its Member States in the framework of the Common Fisheries Policy, consulting the Mediterranean Fisheries Regional Advisory Council. Migratory stocks or stocks which regularly move from one national area to another are managed by two regional fisheries management organisations: the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas for tuna, swordfish and sharks, and the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean for other species.
The Mediterranean is the area of competence of two marine environmental conventions:

  • The Barcelona Convention or Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean and the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) which is linked to it.
  • The Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic Area, of which the European Union is not a member.

Each State manages fishing in its waters. The European Union manages the fishing grounds of its Member States in the framework of the Common Fisheries Policy, consulting the Mediterranean Fisheries Regional Advisory Council. Migratory stocks or stocks which regularly move from one national area to another are managed by two regional fisheries management organisations: the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas for tuna, swordfish and sharks, and the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean for other species.
The Mediterranean is the area of competence of two marine environmental conventions:

  • The Barcelona Convention or Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Region of the Mediterranean and the Mediterranean Action Plan (MAP) which is linked to it.
  • The Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and contiguous Atlantic Area, of which the European Union is not a member.

Physical data

The Mediterranean covers the entire southern edge of the European Union. With a surface area of 2.5 million km², it is one of the largest seas bordering Europe. It contains numerous islands, which add 19 000 km of coastline to the 27 000 km of its continental shores. The average depth of about 1 500 m conceals major disparities. A relatively narrow continental shelf (with the exception of certain areas such as the North of the Adriatic Sea, the Strait of Sicily and the Aegean Sea) contrasts with great depths: over 3 000 m in the large basins, with records of over 5 000 m in some trenches.

The Mediterranean is only connected to the Atlantic by the Strait of Gibraltar. It differs from the Atlantic as it has much smaller tides. The main European rivers flowing into the Mediterranean are the Ebro, the Rhone, and the Po, whereas on the southern shores, obviously we have the Nile, the longest river in the world. These watercourses bring 450 km3 of fresh water per year. The salinity is variable but higher than in the Atlantic, between 36 and 39 °/°°. Temperatures are also variable, but generally high when compared to the majority of other European seas (between 14 and 29°C).

The Mediterranean is only connected to the Atlantic by the Strait of Gibraltar. It differs from the Atlantic as it has much smaller tides. The main European rivers flowing into the Mediterranean are the Ebro, the Rhone, and the Po, whereas on the southern shores, obviously we have the Nile, the longest river in the world. These watercourses bring 450 km3 of fresh water per year. The salinity is variable but higher than in the Atlantic, between 36 and 39 °/°°. Temperatures are also variable, but generally high when compared to the majority of other European seas (between 14 and 29°C).

History

The Mediterranean saw the expansion of the ancient maritime powers. In the end Rome controlled the entire sea (Mare Nostrum) until the destruction of its fleet by the Vandals at Cape Bon (468).

In the Middle Ages, the gradual weakening of the Byzantine Empire favoured new maritime actors: the Arabs (8th century), the Berbers (9th-10th century), the Normans of Sicily (11th century) and the Italian city-states (11th-12th century). Genoa and Venice became Mediterranean thalassocracies through their control of the trade routes to the East. This domination ended in the 15th and 16th centuries, following the expansion of two rising powers: Aragon to the West and the Ottoman Empire to the East. The Battle of Lepanto (1571) put an end to Turkish expansion. But the Mediterranean lost its commercial leadership following the development of Atlantic trade.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Mediterranean came under the control of the United Kingdom which took over its strategic points in order to control the route to India, which was rendered entirely maritime when the Suez Canal was completed (1869). France, on the other hand, colonised the Maghreb. During the First World War, violent battles aimed at controlling the Strait of Otranto, gateway to the Austrian Adriatic, and the Dardanelles, gateway to the Ottoman Empire. The fall of the latter allowed the United Kingdom and France to take control of the eastern and southern shores. During the Second World War, the Mediterranean was the setting for decisive maritime battles, such as the landings in Sicily and Provence. In the post-war years, the Near-Eastern and North African States gained an often turbulent independence.

In the Middle Ages, the gradual weakening of the Byzantine Empire favoured new maritime actors: the Arabs (8th century), the Berbers (9th-10th century), the Normans of Sicily (11th century) and the Italian city-states (11th-12th century). Genoa and Venice became Mediterranean thalassocracies through their control of the trade routes to the East. This domination ended in the 15th and 16th centuries, following the expansion of two rising powers: Aragon to the West and the Ottoman Empire to the East. The Battle of Lepanto (1571) put an end to Turkish expansion. But the Mediterranean lost its commercial leadership following the development of Atlantic trade.
In the 18th and 19th centuries, the Mediterranean came under the control of the United Kingdom which took over its strategic points in order to control the route to India, which was rendered entirely maritime when the Suez Canal was completed (1869). France, on the other hand, colonised the Maghreb. During the First World War, violent battles aimed at controlling the Strait of Otranto, gateway to the Austrian Adriatic, and the Dardanelles, gateway to the Ottoman Empire. The fall of the latter allowed the United Kingdom and France to take control of the eastern and southern shores. During the Second World War, the Mediterranean was the setting for decisive maritime battles, such as the landings in Sicily and Provence. In the post-war years, the Near-Eastern and North African States gained an often turbulent independence.

Bibliography

Programme pour l’environnement dans la Méditerranée, World Bank & European Investment Bank, Washington, 1990.

Priority issues in the Mediterranean Environment, European Environment Agency & UNEP, Copenhagen, 2006.

C. CHEVALIER, Gouvernance de la mer Méditerranée: régime juridique et prospectives, IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)/Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation, 2005.

A Community Action Plan for the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources in the Mediterranean Sea under the Common Fisheries Policy (COM 535/2002), Commission of the European Communities, Brussels, 9 October 2002.

Towards an Integrated Maritime Policy for better governance in the Mediterranean (COM 466/2009), Commission of the European Communities, Brussels, 11 September 2009.

E. ÖZSOY & A. MIKAELYAN, Sensitivity to change: Black Sea, Baltic Sea and North Sea, NATO Advanced Sciences Institutes Series, Kluwer Academic Publisher, Dordrecht-Boston-London, 1997.

M. GRENON and M. BATISSE, Le plan Bleu. Avenirs du bassin Méditerranéen, Economica & Centre d’Activités Régional du Plan Bleu pour la Méditerranée, Paris-Sophia-Antipolis, 1988.

Y. LACOSTE, Géopolitique de la Méditerranée, Armand Colin, Paris, 2006.

Y. LACOSTE, La Méditerranée, espace géopolitique, in Questions internationales (La Documentation Française), No 36, March-April 2009 La Méditerranée. Unavenir en question, pp. 27-35.

J. LIEUTAUD (dir.), Une Mer entre trois continents: La Méditerranée, Capes/agrégation, Editions Ellipses, Paris, 2001.

J-P PANCEACIO, Un espace maritime juridique particulier, in Questions internationales (La Documentation Française), No 36, March-April 2009 La Méditerranée. Unavenir en question, pp. 38-43.

Plan Bleu - Rapport annuel 2008, United Nations Environment Programme & Mediterranean Action Plan, Valbonne, 2009.

Programme pour l’environnement dans la Méditerranée, World Bank & European Investment Bank, Washington, 1990.

Priority issues in the Mediterranean Environment, European Environment Agency & UNEP, Copenhagen, 2006.

C. CHEVALIER, Gouvernance de la mer Méditerranée: régime juridique et prospectives, IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature)/Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation, 2005.

A Community Action Plan for the conservation and sustainable exploitation of fisheries resources in the Mediterranean Sea under the Common Fisheries Policy (COM 535/2002), Commission of the European Communities, Brussels, 9 October 2002.

Towards an Integrated Maritime Policy for better governance in the Mediterranean (COM 466/2009), Commission of the European Communities, Brussels, 11 September 2009.

E. ÖZSOY & A. MIKAELYAN, Sensitivity to change: Black Sea, Baltic Sea and North Sea, NATO Advanced Sciences Institutes Series, Kluwer Academic Publisher, Dordrecht-Boston-London, 1997.

M. GRENON and M. BATISSE, Le plan Bleu. Avenirs du bassin Méditerranéen, Economica & Centre d’Activités Régional du Plan Bleu pour la Méditerranée, Paris-Sophia-Antipolis, 1988.

Y. LACOSTE, Géopolitique de la Méditerranée, Armand Colin, Paris, 2006.

Y. LACOSTE, La Méditerranée, espace géopolitique, in Questions internationales (La Documentation Française), No 36, March-April 2009 La Méditerranée. Unavenir en question, pp. 27-35.

J. LIEUTAUD (dir.), Une Mer entre trois continents: La Méditerranée, Capes/agrégation, Editions Ellipses, Paris, 2001.

J-P PANCEACIO, Un espace maritime juridique particulier, in Questions internationales (La Documentation Française), No 36, March-April 2009 La Méditerranée. Unavenir en question, pp. 38-43.

Plan Bleu - Rapport annuel 2008, United Nations Environment Programme & Mediterranean Action Plan, Valbonne, 2009.

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