Oceans and seas

Tyrrhenian Sea

May 13, 2013, 10:35 pm
Content Cover Image

Source: NASA

The Tyrrhenian Sea is a region of the Mediterranean Sea to the west of Italy, east of Corsica and Sardinia, and north of Sicily

A number of major cities along the west coast of Italy front the Tyrrhenian Sea, including  Livorno, Rome, Napoli, Palermo (Sicily), and Cagliari (Sardinia).

The sea is named after a Greek word ("Tyrrhenoi") for the Etruscan peoples who populated the part of the Italian coast in ancient times .

caption Regional setting of the Tyrrhenian Sea. Source: Norman Einstein


The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Tyrrhenian Sea as follows:

  • In the Strait of Messina: A line joining the North extreme of Cape Paci with the East extreme of the Island of Sicily, Cape Peloro. (Note the cities of Messina and Reggio di Calabria sit on the Strait)
  • On the Southwest: A line running from Cape Lilibeo (West extreme of Sicily) to the South extreme of Cape Teulada in Sardinia.
  • In the Strait of Bonifacio: A line joining the West extreme of Cape Testa in Sardinia with the Southwest extreme of Cape Feno in Corsica.
  • On the North: A line joining Cape Corse (Cape Grosso) in Corsica, with Tinetto Island and thence through Tino and Palmaria islands to San Pietro Point on the coast of Italy.

North of the Tyrrhenian Sea is the Ligurian Sea; southwest beyond the Strait of Messina is the Ionian Sea; and, west beyond the Strait of Bonifacia is the Balearic Sea.


Part of the Mediterranean Sea Large Marine Ecosystem, the Tyrrhenian Sea is characterized by its temperate climate. Intensive fishing and eutrophication are significant forces impacting the ecology of the sea.

The southern portion of the Italian coast and the Sicilian coast bordering the Tyrrhenian Sea, and Sardina and Corsica are covered by the ecoregion Tyrrhenian-Adriatic sclerophyllous and mixed forests. The northern portion of the Intalian coast bordering the Tyrrhenian Sea is covered by the ecoregion Italian sclerophyllous and semi-deciduous forests.

Aeolian Islands

caption Source: Norman Einstein

The Aeolian Islands are located within the Tyrrhenian Sea off the north coast of Sicily. These islands are part of a World Heritage Site.

There are seven main islands:

  • Alicudi
  • Filicudi
  • Salina
  • Lipari
  • Vulcano
  • Panarea
  • Stromboli

"La Montagne delli Felci e dei Porri" on Salina is a statutory reserve, created by the Region of Palermo in 1984. The small islands of Alicudi (278 ha), Panarea (154 ha), Filicudi (562 ha) and Stromboli (718 ha), plus their islets, have been designated Nature Reserves under Regional law. Vulcano and Lipari do not apparently have any legally defined reserves. (IUCN Evaluation visit).

The Eolian Islands have an important value for their geodynamic, volcanic and archaeological natural and ethno-anthropological features. They include a recent volcanic system of seven volcanoes, formed approximately one million years ago.

Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals

The northern part of the Tyrrhenian Sea is part of the Pelagos Sanctuary for Mediterranean Marine Mammals which was originally called originally called the Ligurian Sea Sanctuary. The Pelagos Sanctuary is a Marine Protected Area recognized by the three nations with coastlines on it - France, Italy and Monoco. It came into existance in 2003. 47 percent of the sanctuary lies in the national waters of these three countries, while 53 percent lies in international waters.

The Cetacean species found in the sanctuary include:

and those with an occasional presence include:

In addition, there are species of tuna, swordfish, sunfish, sharks and giant devil rays within the sanctuary.

Further Reading




Saundry, P. (2013). Tyrrhenian Sea. Retrieved from http://www.eoearth.org/view/article/156749


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