Oceans of the World, navigation and safety at sea and conservation of marine species




Location map of the Adriatic Sea



The The Adriatic Sea is a body of water separating the Italian Peninsula from the Balkan peninsula and the Apennine Mountains from the Dinaric Alps and adjacent ranges. The Adriatic is the northernmost arm of the Mediterranean Sea, extending from the Strait of Otranto (where it connects to the Ionian Sea) to the northwest and the Po Valley. The countries with coasts on the Adriatic are Italy, Croatia, Albania, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Slovenia. The Adriatic contains over 1,300 islands, mostly located along its eastern, Croatian, coast. It is divided into three basins, the northern being the shallowest and the southern being the deepest, with a maximum depth of 1,233 metres (4,045 ft). The Otranto Sill, an underwater ridge, is located at the border between the Adriatic and Ionian Seas. The prevailing currents flow counterclockwise from the Strait of Otranto, along the eastern coast and back to the strait along the western (Italian) coast. Tidal movements in the Adriatic are slight, although larger amplitudes are known to occur occasionally. The Adriatic's salinity is lower than the Mediterranean's because the Adriatic collects a third of the fresh water flowing into the Mediterranean, acting as a dilution basin. The surface water temperatures generally range from 24 °C (75 °F) in summer to 12 °C (54 °F) in winter, significantly moderating the Adriatic Basin's climate.

The Adriatic Sea sits on the Apulian or Adriatic Microplate, which separated from the African Plate in the Mesozoic era. The plate's movement contributed to the formation of the surrounding mountain chains and Apennine tectonic uplift after its collision with the Eurasian plate. In the Late Oligocene, the Apennine Peninsula first formed, separating the Adriatic Basin from the rest of the Mediterranean. All types of sediment are found in the Adriatic, with the bulk of the material transported by the Po and other rivers on the western coast. The western coast is alluvial or terraced, while the eastern coast is highly indented with pronounced karstification. There are dozens of marine protected areas in the Adriatic, designed to protect the sea's karst habitats and biodiversity. The sea is abundant in flora and fauna. More than 7,000 species are identified as native to the Adriatic, many of them endemic, rare and threatened ones.





The Adriatic's shores are populated by more than 3.5 million people; the largest cities are Bari, Venice, Trieste and Split. The earliest settlements on the Adriatic shores were Etruscan, Illyrian, and Greek. By the 2nd century BC, the shores were under the Roman Republic's control. In the Middle Ages, the Adriatic shores and the sea itself were controlled, to a varying extent, by a series of states, most notably the Byzantine Empire, the Republic of Venice, the Habsburg Monarchy and the Ottoman Empire. The Napoleonic Wars resulted in the First French Empire gaining coastal control and the British effort to counter the French in the area, ultimately securing most of the eastern Adriatic shore and the Po Valley for Austria. Following Italian unification, the Kingdom of Italy started an eastward expansion that lasted until the 20th century. Following World War I and the collapse of Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire, the eastern coast's control passed to Yugoslavia and Albania. The former disintegrated in the 1990s, resulting in four new states on the Adriatic coast. Italy and Yugoslavia agreed on their maritime boundaries by 1975 and this boundary is recognised by Yugoslavia's successor states, but the maritime boundaries between Slovenian, Croatian, Bosnian–Herzegovinian and Montenegrin waters are disputed. Italy and Albania agreed on their maritime boundary in 1992.

Fisheries and tourism are significant sources of income all along the Adriatic coast. Adriatic Croatia's tourism industry has grown faster economically than the rest of the Adriatic Basin's. Maritime transport is also a significant branch of the area's economy. There are 19 seaports in the Adriatic that each handle more than a million tonnes of cargo per year. The largest Adriatic seaport by annual cargo turnover is the Port of Trieste, while the Port of Split is the largest Adriatic seaport by passengers served per year.




Venice is the capital of the Veneto region in Italy. In 2009, there were 270,098 people residing in Venice's comune (the population estimate of 272,000 inhabitants includes the population of the whole Comune of Venezia; around 60,000 in the historic city of Venice (Centro storico); 176,000 in Terraferma (the Mainland), mostly in the large frazioni (roughly equivalent to "parishes" or "wards" in other countries) of Mestre and Marghera; 31,000 live on other islands in the lagoon). Together with Padua and Treviso, the city is included in the Padua-Treviso-Venice Metropolitan Area (PATREVE), with a total population of 1,600,000. PATREVE is only a statistical metropolitan area without any degree of autonomy.

The name is derived from the ancient Veneti people who inhabited the region by the 10th century BC. The city historically was the capital of the Republic of Venice. Venice has been known as the "La Dominante", "Serenissima", "Queen of the Adriatic", "City of Water", "City of Masks", "City of Bridges", "The Floating City", and "City of Canals". Luigi Barzini described it in The New York Times as "undoubtedly the most beautiful city built by man". Venice has also been described by the Times Online as being one of Europe's most romantic cities.

The Republic of Venice was a major maritime power during the Middle Ages and Renaissance, and a staging area for the Crusades and the Battle of Lepanto, as well as a very important center of commerce (especially silk, grain, and spice) and art in the 13th century up to the end of the 17th century. This made Venice a wealthy city throughout most of its history. It is also known for its several important artistic movements, especially the Renaissance period. Venice has played an important role in the history of symphonic and operatic music, and it is the birthplace of Antonio Vivaldi.

The buildings of Venice are constructed on closely spaced wooden piles. Most of these piles are still intact after centuries of submersion. The foundations rest on plates of Istrian limestone placed on top of the piles, and buildings of brick or stone sit above these footings. The piles penetrate a softer layer of sand and mud until they reach a much harder layer of compressed clay.

Submerged by water, in oxygen-poor conditions, wood does not decay as rapidly as on the surface. Most of these piles were made from trunks of alder trees, a wood noted for its water resistance.




The Adriatic Sea ecosystem is threatened by excessive input of nutrients through drainage from agricultural land and wastewater flowing from cities; this includes both along its coast and from rivers draining into the sea, especially from the Po River. Venice is often cited as an example of polluted coastal waters where shipping, transportation, farming, manufacturing and wastewater disposal contribute to polluting the sea. A further risk is presented by ballast water discharge by ships, especially tankers. Still, since most of the cargo handled by the Adriatic ports, and virtually all liquid (tanker) cargo handled by the ports, is coming to - not coming from - the Adriatic Basin, the risk from ballast water (from tankers expelling ballast water then loading in the Adriatic) remains minimal. However, proposed export oil pipelines were objected to specifically because of this issue. Oil spills are a major concern in terms of potential environmental impact and damage to tourism and fisheries. It is estimated that if a major oil spill happened, a million people would lose their livelihoods in Croatia alone. An additional risk is presented by oil refineries in the Po River basin where oil spills have occurred before, in addition to accidents occurring in the Adriatic already, so far with no significant environmental consequences. Since 2006, Italy has been considering the construction of an offshore and an onshore LNG terminal in the Gulf of Trieste, as well as a pipeline, in the immediate vicinity of the Slovenian–Italian border. The Slovenian government and municipalities, the municipal council of Trieste, and non-governmental organisations have voiced concern over their environmental hazards, effect on transport and effect on tourism.

Another source of pollution of the Adriatic is solid waste. Drifting waste - occasionally relatively large quantities of material, especially waste plastic - is transported northwest by the sirocco. Air pollution in the Adriatic Basin is associated with the large industrial centres in the Po River valley and the large industrial cities along the coast.

Italy and Yugoslavia established a joint commission to protect the Adriatic Sea from pollution in 1977; the organization later changed with Slovenia, Croatia and Montenegro replacing Yugoslavia. Future pollution hazards are addressed and pollution hotspots are assessed not only by nations in the basin but also through regional projects with World Bank support. 27 such hotspots have been determined as of 2011, 6 warranting an urgent response.




A beach on an Adriatic coast covered in plastic and other waste




The Adriatic Sea fishery's production is distributed among countries in the basin. In 2000, the nominal - on a live weight basis - total landings of all Adriatic fisheries reached 110,000 tonnes (108,000 long tons). Overfishing is a recognised problem. 450 species of fish live in the Adriatic Sea, including 120 species threatened by excessive commercial fishing. This is a problem exacerbated by pollution and global warming. Overexploited species include common dentex, red scorpionfish, monkfish, John Dory, blue shark, spiny dogfish, mullet, red mullet, Norway lobster, as well as European hake, and sardines. Turtles and common bottlenose dolphins are also being killed by fishing nets. The depleted fish stock, and Croatia's Ecological and Fisheries Protection Zone (ZERP) contributed to accusations of overfishing exchanged between Italian and Croatian fishermen. ZERP was introduced in 2003, but its application to EU member states was suspended in 2004. The depleted stocks of fish are being addressed through new proposed EU fisheries policy had has been scheduled to take effect in 2013, when Croatia acceded to the EU, and restore the stocks to sustainable levels by 2015.

The largest volume of fish harvesting was in Italy, where the total production volume in 2007 stood at 465,637 tonnes (458,283 long tons). In 2003, 28.8% of Italian fisheries production volume was generated in the Northern and central Adriatic, and 24.5% in Apulia (from the Southern Adriatic and Ionian Sea). Italian fisheries, including those operating outside the Adriatic, employed 60,700 in the primary sector, including aquaculture (which comprises 40% of the total fisheries production). The total fisheries output's gross value in 2002 was $1.9 billion.

In 2007, Croatia's production in live weight reached 53,083 tonnes (52,245 long tons). In 2006, the total Croatian fisheries production volume was 37,800 tonnes (37,200 long tons) of catch and 14,200 tonnes (14,000 long tons) from marine aquaculture. Croatian fisheries employed approximately 20,000. The 2006 marine capture catch in Croatian waters consisted of sardines (44.8%), anchovies (31.3%), tunas (2.7%), other pelagic fish (4.8%), hake (2.4%), mullet (2.1%), other demersal fish (8.3%), crustaceans (largely lobster and Nephrops norvegicus) (0.8%), shellfish (largely oysters and mussels) (0.3%), cuttlefish (0.6%), squids (0.2%) and octopuses and other cephalopods (1.6%). Croatian marine aquaculture production consisted of tuna (47.2%), oysters and mussels (28.2% combined) and bass and bream (24.6% combined).

In 2007, Albanian fisheries production amounted to 7,505 tonnes (7,386 long tons), including aquaculture production, which reached 1,970 tonnes (1,940 long tons) in 2006. At the same time, Slovenian fisheries produced a total of 2,500 tonnes (2,460 long tons) with 55% of the production volume originating in aquaculture, representing the highest ratio in the Adriatic. Finally, the Montenegrin fisheries production stood at 911 tonnes (897 long tons) in 2006, with only 11 tonnes coming from aquaculture. In 2007, the fisheries production in Bosnia–Herzegovina reached volume of 9,625 tonnes (9,473 long tons) and 2,463 tonnes (2,424 long tons) in Slovenia.







The countries bordering the Adriatic Sea are significant tourist destinations. The largest number of tourist overnight stays and the most numerous tourist accommodation facilities are recorded in Italy, especially in the Veneto region (around Venice). Veneto is followed by the Emilia-Romagna region and by the Adriatic Croatian counties. The Croatian tourist facilities are further augmented by 21,000 nautical ports and moorings; nautical tourists are attracted to various types of marine protected areas.

All countries along the Adriatic coast, except Albania and Bosnia–Herzegovina, take part in the Blue Flag beach certification programme (of the Foundation for Environmental Education), for beaches and marinas meeting strict quality standards including environmental protection, water quality, safety and services criteria. As of January 2012, the Blue Flag has been awarded to 103 Italian Adriatic beaches and 29 marinas, 116 Croatian beaches and 19 marinas, 7 Slovenian beaches and 2 marinas, and 16 Montenegrin beaches. Adriatic tourism is a significant source of income for these countries, especially in Croatia and Montenegro where the tourism income generated along the Adriatic coast represents the bulk of such income. The direct contribution of travel and tourism to Croatia's GDP stood at 5.1% in 2011, with the total industry contribution estimated at 12.8% of the national GDP. For Montenegro, the direct contribution of tourism to the national GDP is 8.1%, with the total contribution to the economy at 17.2% of Montenegrin GDP. Tourism in Adriatic Croatia has recently exhibited greater growth than in the other regions around the Adriatic.





Seabirds and fish suffer from oil spills in the Adriatic Sea. Tankers and big vessels are two causes of this pollution in Adriatic seas, with industry also responsible for dumping chemicals in the mix. Last year there was a great problem in the river Po because industry released poisons in it. 




Natural gas is produced through several projects, including a joint venture of the Eni and INA companies that operates two platforms - one is in Croatian waters and draws gas from six wells, and the other (which started operating in 2010) is located in Italian waters. The Adriatic gas fields were discovered in the 1970s, but their development commenced in 1996. In 2008, INA produced 14.58 million BOE per day of gas. About 100 offshore platforms are located in the Emilia-Romagna region, along with 17 in the Northern Adriatic. Eni estimated its concessions in the Adriatic Sea to hold at least 40,000,000,000 cubic metres (1.4×1012 cu ft) of natural gas, adding that they may even reach 100,000,000,000 cubic metres (3.5×1012 cu ft). INA estimates, however, are 50% lower than those supplied by Eni. Oil was discovered in the Northern Adriatic at a depth of approximately 5,400 metres (17,700 ft); the discovery was assessed as not viable because of its location, depth and quality. These gas and oil reserves are part of the Po basin Province of Northern Italy and the Northern Mediterranean Sea.

In the 2000s, investigation works aimed at discovering gas and oil reserves in the Middle and Southern Adriatic basins intensified, and by the decade's end, oil and natural gas reserves were discovered southeast of the Bari, Brindisi - Rovesti and Giove oil discoveries. Surveys indicate reserves of 3 billion barrels of oil in place and 5.7×1010 cubic metres (2,000,000,000,000 cu ft) of gas in place. The discovery was followed by further surveys off the Croatian coast. In January 2012, INA commenced prospecting for oil off Dubrovnik, marking the resumption of oil exploration along the eastern Adriatic coast after surveys commenced in the late 1980s around the island of Brač were cancelled because of Yugoslavia's breakup and war in Croatia. Montenegro is also expected to look for oil off its coast. As of January 2012, only 200 exploration wells had been sunk off the Croatian coast, with all but 30 in the Northern Adriatic basin.




The PlanetSolar in Venice 9th October 2014, Grand Canal




The unique nature of the Adriatic gives rise to an abundance of endemic flora and fauna. The Croatian National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan identified more than 7,000 animal and plant species in the Adriatic Sea. The Central Adriatic is especially abundant in endemic plant species, with 535 identified species of green, brown and red algae. Four out of five Mediterranean seagrass species are found in the Adriatic Sea. The most common species are Cymodocea nodosa and Zostera noltii, while Zostera marina and Posidonia oceanica are comparably rare.

A number of rare and threatened species are also found along the Adriatic's eastern coast; it is relatively clearer and less polluted than the western Adriatic coast—in part because the sea currents flow through the Adriatic in a counterclockwise direction, thus bringing clearer waters up the eastern coast and returning increasingly polluted water down the western coast. This circulation has significantly contributed to the biodiversity of the countries along the eastern Adriatic coast; the common bottlenose dolphin is frequent in the eastern coast's waters only, and the Croatian coast provides refuge for the critically endangered monk seal and sea turtles.

The Northern Adriatic in particular is rich in endemic fish fauna. Around thirty species of fish are found in only one or two countries bordering the Adriatic Sea. These are particularly due to or dependent upon the karst morphology of the coastal or submarine topography; this includes inhabiting subterranean habitats, karst rivers, and areas around freshwater springs. There are 45 known subspecies endemic to the Adriatic's coasts and islands. In the Adriatic, there are at least 410 species and subspecies of fish, representing approximately 70% of Mediterranean taxa, with at least 7 species endemic to the Adriatic. Sixty-four known species are threatened with extinction, largely because of over-fishing. Only a small fraction of the fish found in the Adriatic are attributed to recent processes such as Lessepsian migration, and escape from mariculture.



During the 20th century, when many artesian wells were sunk into the periphery of the lagoon to draw water for local industry, Venice began to subside. It was realised that extraction of water from the aquifer was the cause. The sinking has slowed markedly since artesian wells were banned in the 1960s. However, the city is still threatened by more frequent low-level floods (called Acqua alta, "high water") that creep to a height of several centimetres over its quays, regularly following certain tides. In many old houses, the former staircases used to unload goods are now flooded, rendering the former ground floor uninhabitable.




Venice, which was originally built on islands off the coast, is most at risk due to subsidence, but the threat is present in the Po delta as well. The causes are a decrease in sedimentation rate due to loss of sediment behind dams, the deliberate excavation of sand for industrial purposes, agricultural use of water, and removal of ground water.

The sinking of Venice slowed after artesian wells were banned in the 1960s, but the city remains threatened by the acqua alta floods. Recent studies have suggested that the city is no longer sinking, but a state of alert remains in place. In May 2003, then-Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi inaugurated the MOSE project (Italian: Modulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico), an experimental model for evaluating the performance of inflatable gates. The project proposes laying a series of 79 inflatable pontoons across the sea bed at the three entrances to the Venetian Lagoon. When tides are predicted to rise above 110 centimetres (43 in), the pontoons will be filled with air and block the incoming water from the Adriatic Sea. This engineering work is due to be completed by 2014.


As in most Mediterranean Basin areas, the Adriatic Sea and its surrounding landmass enjoy the Mediterranean climate, a type of subtropical climate. Since the Adriatic Sea is located in the mid-latitudes, it is characterized by a seasonally variable climate; it is also characterized by warm to hot, dry summers and mild to cool, wet winters. The air temperature fluctuates by about 20 °C (36 °F) during a season. According to the Köppen climate classification, the southern and central Adriatic are classified as hot-summer Mediterranean climate (Csa) and the northern Adriatic as humid subtropical climate (Cfa) areas. The predominant winter winds are the bora and sirocco (called jugo along the eastern coast). The bora is significantly conditioned by wind gaps in the Dinaric Alps bringing cold and dry continental air; it reaches peak speeds in the areas of Trieste, Senj, and Split, with gusts of up to 180 kilometres per hour (97 kn; 110 mph). The sirocco brings humid and warm air, often carrying Saharan sand causing rain dust.




Venice is one of the most important tourist destinations in the world for its celebrated art and architecture. The city has an average of 50,000 tourists a day (2007 estimate). In 2006, it was the world's 28th most internationally visited city, with 2.927 million international arrivals that year. It is regarded as one of the world's most beautiful cities. Some sources state that the city is no longer sinking, but this is not yet certain; therefore, a state of alert has not been revoked.




MOSE (MOdulo Sperimentale Elettromeccanico, Experimental Electromechanical Module) is a project intended to protect the city of Venice, Italy, and the Venetian Lagoon from flooding. The project is an integrated system consisting of rows of mobile gates installed at the Lido, Malamocco and Chioggia inlets that are able to temporarily isolate the Venetian Lagoon from the Adriatic Sea during high tides. Together with other measures such as coastal reinforcement, the raising of quaysides, and the paving and improvement of the lagoon, MOSE is designed to protect Venice and the lagoon from tides of up to 3 metres (9.8 ft).

The Consorzio Venezia Nuova is responsible for the work on behalf of the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport – Venice Water Authority. Construction began simultaneously in 2003 at all three lagoon inlets, and as of June 2013, 80% of the project has been completed.




A map showing the extent of oil pollution in the Adriatic
















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