Ecosystem overviews

North Sea ecoregion description

The Greater North Sea ecoregion includes the North Sea, English Channel, Skagerrak, and Kattegat.

​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​It is a temperate coastal shelf sea with a deep channel in the northwest, a permanently thermally mixed water column in the south and east, and seasonal stratification in the north.

Fisheries management in the Greater North Sea ecoregion is conducted in accordance with the EU Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), by Norway, and by coastal state agreements. Managerial responsibility for salmon is taken by the North Atlantic Salmon Conservation Organization (NASCO) and for large pelagic fish by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT). Collective fisheries advice is provided by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the European Commission’s Scientific Technical and Economic Committee for Fisheries (STECF), and the North Sea and Pelagic ACs. 

Environmental policy is managed by national governments and agencies and OSPAR, with advice being provided by national agencies, OSPAR, the European Environment Agency (EEA), and ICES. International shipping is managed under the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

The ecoregion consists of four key areas:
  • Northern North Sea (depths 0–500 m) is strongly influenced by oceanic inflow and has a deep channel in the east. The majority of the area is stratified in summer. The dominant human activities are fishing and oil and gas production.
  • Southern North Sea (depths 0–50 m) is characterized by large river inputs and strongly mixed water. The dominant human activities are fishing, shipping, ports, gas production, wind farms, and aggregate (sand) extraction.
  • The Skagerrak and Kattegat forms the link to the Baltic Sea and is less saline and less tidal than the rest of the ecoregion. The water column is usually mixed. The dominant human activities are fishing, shipping, and wind farms.
  •  The English Channel joins the southern North Sea to the Atlantic. It is usually mixed and heavily influenced by wind events. The dominant human activities are fishing, shipping, and aggregate (gravel) extraction.​


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​Greater North Sea ecoregion, showing EEZs, larger offshore Natura 2000 sites, and operational and authorized wind farms.​ Click to enlarge image.

Catchment area for the Greater North Sea ecoregion showing major cities, ports, and ICES areas.​ Click to enlarge image.
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North Sea ecoregion description

International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) · Conseil International pour l'Exploration de la Mer (CIEM)
ICES Secretariat · H. C. Andersens Boulevard 44-46, DK 1553 Copenhagen V, Denmark · Tel: +45 3338 6700 · Fax: +45 3393 4215 · info@ices.dk
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