The Mediterranean – a sea surrounded by land

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Cirali beach, on the Mediterranean Sea, one of the few remaining nesting sites for the loggerhead turtles.
© Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon
The Mediterranean Basin refers to the sea and lands around, and surrounded by, the Mediterranean Sea.
Close your eyes and think of sunshine, white sands, warm waters. Ponder the idea of relaxed living, good food and friendly people. Glimpse the striking colours of Cezanne's rich landscapes. Travel from cork oak forests, to snowy mountain peaks, to sandy turtle tracks on the shore.

All of this, and much more, is the Mediterranean.

The Mediterranean sea is the largest enclosed sea in the world with 46,000 km of coastline. We include 24 countries and territories from Europe, Africa and the Middle East. This treasure trove contains some of the most fertile, beautiful, and therefore most coveted land on the planet. It is not only known for this natural beauty, but being blessed with a mild and temperate climate, it is also one of the world’s most populated and developed areas. However, it is also one of the least protected regions in the world.

Its natural bounty is not infinite.

Archaeological data show that lush forests once grew abundantly across the Mediterranean basin. Now just 17 per cent of the original forest cover is left. Fires, excessive agriculture and timber use have all taken their toll. Every day, we are losing habitat, degrading rivers and streams, exploiting marine life, polluting the seas and losing unique species that are only found in Mediterranean countries. The Mediterranean has also been identified by the IPCC as a climate impact hotspot.

Most of us are still unaware of the growing threats.

Every year over 220 million holiday makers flock here and those numbers are growing annually. This is fuelling uncontrolled construction projects and the region is groaning under the strain of tourism. To save the Mediterranean and let its unique voice sound clear once more, WWF is working with partners, decision makers, communities and visitors to ensure the survival of this bountiful and beautiful area.

WWF in the Mediterranean

WWF in the Mediterranean includes five national offices - France, Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey - and the WWF Mediterranean Programme (MedPO), which has staff in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, Montenegro, Morocco, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia, Serbia.
These offices have joined, together with the European Policy Office (EPO) and WWF International, to scale-up the conservation effort in the region with the WWF Mediterranean Initiative.

Where is the Mediterranean?
The Mediterranean region is here in light green. WWF Critical Regions of the World
© Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon © R.Isotti, A.Cambone - Homo Ambiens / WWF-Canon © Ioli Christopoulou / WWF © WWF / Erling SVENSEN © Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon © Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon © WWF Mediterranean © Wild Wonders of Europe /Jari Peltomaeki / WWF © Nino Pierantonia / Tethys research institute © Miguel Murcia Navarro / WWF-Spain © Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon © Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon © Michel Gunther / WWF-Canon

Facts & Figures

    • The Mediterranean Sea covers an approximate area of 2.5 million km2 (965,000 sq mi).
    • Its average depth is 1,500m (4,920 ft); the deepest recorded point is 5,267m (about 3.27 miles) in the Calypso Deep in the Ionian Sea.
    • The coastline extends for 46,000km (28,600 miles).
    • Large islands in the Med include Cyprus, Crete, Rhodes, Corfu, Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily and Majorca.
    • The name Mediterranean is derived from the Latin mediterraneanus, meaning "inland" or "in the middle of the earth".
    • More than 220 million tourists visit the region each year.
    • Less than 1% of the Sea is protected.
    • Almost 85% of its forests have disappeared.

Seas within the Sea

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