The North Sea is a marginal sea of the Atlantic Ocean located between Great Britain, Scandinavia, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, and France. An epeiric (or "shelf") sea on the European continental shelf, it connects to the ocean through the English Channel in the south and the Norwegian Sea in the north. It is more than 970 kilometres (600 mi) long and 580 kilometres (360 mi) wide, with an area of around 570,000 square kilometres (220,000 sq mi).
The North Sea has long been the site of important European shipping lanes as well as a major fishery. The sea is a popular destination for recreation and tourism in bordering countries and more recently has developed into a rich source of energy resources including fossil fuels, wind, and early efforts in wave power.
Historically, the North Sea has featured prominently in geopolitical and military affairs, particularly in Northern Europe. It was also important globally through the power northern Europeans projected worldwide during much of the Middle Ages and into the modern era. The North Sea was the centre of the Vikings' rise. Subsequently, the Hanseatic League, the Netherlands, and the British each sought to dominate the North Sea and thus the access to the markets and resources of the world. As Germany's only outlet to the ocean, the North Sea continued to be strategically important through both World Wars.
The coast of the North Sea presents a diversity of geological and geographical features. In the north, deep fjords and sheer cliffs mark the Norwegian and Scottish coastlines, whereas in the south the coast consists primarily of sandy beaches and wide mudflats. Due to the dense population, heavy industrialization, and intense use of the sea and area surrounding it, there have been a number of environmental issues affecting the sea's ecosystems. Adverse environmental issues — commonly including overfishing, industrial and agricultural runoff, dredging, and dumping among others — have led to a number of efforts to prevent degradation of the sea while still making use of its economic potential....LESS