10 Important Facts About the Tyrrhenian Sea

The volcanic island of Ischia in the Tyrrhenian Sea.
The volcanic island of Ischia in the Tyrrhenian Sea.

The Tyrrhenian Sea is located along the western shoreline of Italy and is considered part of the larger Mediterranean Sea. It covers an area of approximately 106,000 square miles, which is situated over the boundary between the Eurasian and African tectonic plates. Nine additional facts about the Tyrrhenian Sea are listed below.


Since the Tyrrhenian Sea is considered part of the Mediterranean Sea, identifying its exact boundaries is not always simple. The sea is bordered by Italy to the east, and the Italian regions with coastlines on the Tyrrhenian Sea include: Campania, Calabria, Tuscany, Basilicata, and Lazio. To the west, the sea's boundaries are marked by the islands of Corsica, which is a French territory, and Sardinia, which is an Italian territory. The Ligurian Sea meets the Tyrrhenian Sea along its northwest corner. The southeastern border is defined by the island of Sicily and the "toe" area of Italy's "boot." The southwestern edge of the sea runs into the Mediterranean Sea.


The unique location of the Tyrrhenian Sea means it has several entrances and exit points. Two of these exits lead into the Mediterranean Sea, one exit flows into the Ligurian Sea, and the fourth flows into the Ionian Sea. Of the two exits into the Mediterranean Sea, only one has an official name, known as the Strait of Bonifacio, which is located between the islands of Corsica and Sardinia, and measures approximately 6.8 miles in width. The unnamed exit is 180 miles wide and is located between the islands of Sardinia and Sicily. The Corsica Channel flows between the Tyrrhenian Sea and the Ligurian Sea, between the Tuscany region in the northwest of Italy and the island of Corsica and measures around 50 miles in width. The fourth exit into the Ionian Sea, known as the Strait of Messina, measures 1.9 miles wide and is located between Sicily and the Calabria region at the southern tip of Italy.

Historic Importance

The Tyrrhenian Sea has played an important cultural and social role throughout history, particularly in terms of international trade. Its strategic location allowed ships to connect from several eastern continents, including Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and Europe. Although the sea previously experienced a number of sailors and merchant ships, the amount of trade conducted in its waters was limited due to the fact that the area was controlled by pirates. In addition, the Tyrrhenian Sea played an important part during the Napoleonic period, which began in the late 18th century. Napoleon reportedly used these waters to launch one of his warships.

Current Importance

The importance of the Tyrrhenian Sea has continued into current times. Today, the sea has maintained its role as a major trade and transportation route, receiving a significant number of vessels on a daily basis. It has also become a popular tourist destination given that it is home to several islands within its boundaries and a number of cities along its shorelines. Some of the most popular attractions in the Tyrrhenian Sea include Sicily, the Aeolian Islands, the city of Palermo, and the city of Naples. The resorts located in these places receive thousands of visitors on a yearly basis. In addition to its importance in the trade and tourism industries, the Tyrrhenian Sea also supports a large fishing industry. The activities that take place in this sea are important contributors to the economy of the surrounding area.

Underwater Geography

The underwater geography of the Tyrrhenian Sea is divided into two basins: the Marsili plain and the Vavilov plain. The two basins are located on either side of the Issel Bridge, which is an underwater sea ridge. The deepest point in the sea is recorded at 12,418 feet. Given its location over the boundary between two tectonic plates, the floor of the Tyrrhenian Sea is affected by significant volcanic activity. In fact, several mountains and volcanoes are located underwater here, including Mount Marsili in the Marsili plain.


The Tyrrhenian Sea is also home to a number of islands, including the Aeolian archipelago, Ustica, and the Tuscan archipelago. The Aeolian Islands are located north of Sicily and cover a total area of over 3,000 acres. The island of Ustica covers approximately 3.18 square miles, is also located north of Sicily, and has a population size of about 1,300 individuals. The largest island in the Tuscan archipelago chain is Elba, which is located off the coast of the Tuscan region and covers an area of 86 square miles.


The Tyrrhenian Sea is also home to a wide range of diverse plant and animal species. The fishing industry here relies on large populations of sea bass, bluefin tuna, swordfish, and grouper. The northern area of the sea is protected as part of the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals, a marine reserve that also extends into the nearby Ligurian Sea. This marine reserve provides protection for a number of species, including long-finned pilot whales, bottlenose dolphins, sperm whales, and fin whales.


As mentioned, the Tyrrhenian Sea has a number of important trade routes within its territory. This use has paved the way for the establishment of several port cities along its edges. Some of the port cities found along this sea include Salerno, Palermo, Bastia, and Naples. Additionally, the Port of Civitavecchia is also located here, and the town is sometimes referred to as the "port of Rome," although it is actually located 42 miles away from the center of Rome.


Like many marine ecosystems around the world, the Tyrrhenian Sea faces a number of environmental threats. One of the most significant threats to the habitat is the practice of overfishing. As the fishing industry grows due to increased consumer demand, fishermen are driven to catch larger quantities of fish every year. Overfishing is an unsustainable practice because it prevents the fish species from repopulating their numbers, resulting in constantly decreasing fish populations. This result, in turn, affects the food chain and reduces food available to larger predators.


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