The Tyrrhenian Sea, occupying an area of around 106,000 square miles, is a part of the Mediterranean Sea that is surrounded by the Italian peninsula to the east, Corsica to the west, and Sicily to the south. The sea, with a maximum depth of 12,418 feet, is located near the meeting point of the African and Eurasian continental plates, and hence its sea bed is riddled with mountain chains and active volcanoes. Ustica, a small 9-kilometer long island, and the volcanic archipelago of the eight Aeolian Islands, lie on the southern part of the Tyrrhenian Sea. In the southeast, the Tyrrhenian sea is connected to the Ionian Sea via the Strait of Messina, and, in the northeast, it is linked to the Ligurian Sea across the Tuscan archipelago.
Since the ancient times, the Tyrrhenian Sea, like all other parts of the Mediterranean Sea, has served as an important trade route between Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. Though the adjacent Adriatic Sea route was more popular among the sea merchants and sailors because of its proximity to Italy’s inland market destinations, the Tyrrhenian Sea route was also taken by cargo vessels to exchange in trade with the Italian ports of Amalfi and Genoa. However, the trade route via the Tyrrhenian Sea was laden with dangers, since the sea was infested by the Saracens pirates who also controlled Sicily. It was not until the 14th Century that the Tyrrhenian Sea’s pirates were eliminated, and the trade route was rendered safe for sailors and merchants.
The Aeolian islands and Sicily are major global tourist spots on the Tyrrhenian Sea, attracting tens of thousands of tourists every year. Income generated from coastal resorts, water activities, and other tourist facilities set up in the region greatly benefit the economies of the islands located in the sea. The Tyrrhenian Sea abounds in fish, including swordfish, bluefin tuna, barracuda, sea bass, and grouper, allowing commercial and sports fisheries to thrive in the region. Important ports located along the Tyrrhenian coast include Naples, Salerno, Palermo, and Civitavecchia. A significant volume of seafaring cargo entering via the Tyrrhenian Sea is handled at these ports.
Habitat and Biodiversity
Like the rest of the Mediterranean Sea, the land around the Tyrrhenian Sea is characterized by a Mediterranean climate, with its warm, dry summers, and cool, wet winters. Tyrrhenian-Adriatic sclerophyllous and mixed forests form the vegetation cover over the southern coasts of Italy and Sicily, as well as those of Sardinia and Corsica along the Tyrrhenian Sea. These forests are dominated by evergreen oaks and deciduous species like South European flowering ashes and Hop horn-beams. The Italian sclerophyllous and semi-deciduous forest regions border the northern parts of Italy facing the Tyrrhenian Sea. The Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals there houses such local species as Fin whales, Sperm whales, various dolphin species, and Cuvier’s beaked whales. Other visiting species, like Killer whales, Humpback whales, and Common Minke whales, are all seen from time to time in the northern parts of the Tyrrhenian Sea.
Environmental Threats and Territorial Disputes
One of the major threats to life based in the waters and along the coast of the Tyrrhenian Sea comes from the Mount Marsili, a submarine volcano located in the depths of the sea. Scientists have revealed some disturbing findings that indicate that the volcano walls might collapse, triggering a tsunami that would wreak havoc on the coastal areas lying in the path of the giant waves. Overfishing in the waters of the sea, and across the entire Mediterranean for that matter, has greatly depleted the fish stocks of the region. Bycatch of the fisheries industry often causes the death of endangered dolphins, whales, and turtles, pushing many native species to the brink of extinction in the Tyrrhenian region.