Marine areas

Marine areas is an entry point to the oceans and seas as listed on the left navigation bar. Also go to FAO Fishing Areas and the continents Africa, America, Antarctica, Asia, Europe, Oceania as other entry points.

The Antarctic, or Southern Ocean, is open with no boundaries; the Antarctic Circumpolar Current flows towards the east, driven by westerly winds. The only partial obstruction is the Drake Passage/Magellan Straits, between Cape Horn (at the tip of South America) and the Antarctic Peninsula. Thick ice sheets flow off the coast of Antarctica and break away to form icebergs that are carried north into the ocean basins of the Pacific, Indian and Atlantic Oceans.

The Atlantic Ocean, lying between the Americas and the west coasts of Africa and Europe, is deeper with variable width continental margins. The Congo River flows into the equatorial Atlantic, as well as drainage from most of the African continent. The north Atlantic contains the world's largest island Greenland and Great Britain, Iceland, Ireland, the Canary Islands and Cape Verde. There are relatively few islands in the south Atlantic with St Helena and Tristan da Cunha.

The Indian Ocean is the smallest and shallowest of the ocean basins, lying primarily in the Southern Hemisphere. Its continental shelf is relatively narrow. The Red Sea and the Arabian Gulf discharge warm, saline, subsurface water. A few large islands are present, especially in the western part (Madagascar, Mauritius, Réunion); many are volcanoes, some still active. There are several groups of low-lying limestone islands with extensive reefs (Maldives, Seychelles).

The Pacific Ocean is the largest, widest and deepest basin containing nearly half of the Earth's free water. It lies between the coasts of Asia and Australia to the west, North America and South America to the east, the Antarctica to the south. Most physical oceanographers view the North and South Pacific as separate oceans. Each has its own current systems and unique ecosystems. Islands are abundant in the Pacific, especially in the southern and western portions; many are volcanoes, some still active. These islands make up Oceania.

The Arctic Ocean or Arctic Sea lies over the North Pole, between North America, Greenland and Asia, almost completely enclosed. Surface water enters the Ocean through the shallow Bering Straits and through the eastern part of the Fram Strait. These source waters are modified by river runoff and meltwater in summer and by salt rejection during freezing in winter resulting in its characteristic surface brackish layer (lower salinity). The Arctic is dominated by permanent ice cover which opens significantly during summer only in its coastal seas. The global warming trend, if continued, will greatly change the strategic and economic importance of the Arctic Ocean through its use for commercial shipping routes and increased exploration of natural resources.

The High Seas refers to areas far from the major continents and in a legal sense, Areas beyond National Jurisdiction.

More images of marine areas provided by our National Geographic partner.

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