Description of the Strait:
The Strait of Gibraltar is a point of connection between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea and of two continents, Europe and Africa, separated by 14.4 kilometres at its narrowest point. This geographic situation has led to it being considered as a strategic intercontinental enclave, an obligatory route when travelling from north to south to reach the coasts and from east to west for maritime traffic. From the Andalusia region, the view of the Moroccan coastline and the features of the mountains which extend almost down to the sea, form a landscape in which the sea and the mountainous terrain allow both coasts to be observed.
This environment boasts extraordinary natural riches. On both sides of the Strait, the Intercontinental Biosphere Reserve of the Mediterranean, which extends over 900,000 hectares, and is spread over the two shores, includes a large variety of protected spaces, both in Morocco and in Spain.
As regards the marine environment, the Estrecho Oriental (Eastern Strait) is a Site of Community Importance which, in 2012, was declared a Special Area of Conservation of the Natura 2000 Network for the Mediterranean Biogeographical region.
The Strait of Gibraltar is the only natural connection which exists between the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean.
The sea bed in the Strait area is of great natural wealth, with extensive seagrass meadows, bearing witness to the environmental quality of the water, which stands out for its spectacular laminaria algae. It is also an obligatory route for many marine animals as they travel between the two saline water bodies.
The easterly and westerly winds have played a fundamental role in creating the very essence of this area and even shaping the coastline- consisting of cliffs and sandy beaches, forming dunes and defining the migration routes of birds. These increase considerably during the migratory passages, bringing about a veritable festival of life, a great natural show with millions of birds- up to 300 species- which travel along the Strait twice a year as they move between Europe and Africa.
Other aspects of the Strait of Gibraltar:
The hub of Gibraltar, which includes the conurbations around the Bay of Algeciras and north Africa, offers great potential as a nerve centre for international transport, as it is one of the Straits with the most maritime traffic. International maritime traffic is closely linked to the existence of a thriving port system and to the specialisation developed by the Port of Algeciras Bay, both in terms of intercontinental cargo traffic and passenger traffic with north Africa. In the Strait of Gibraltar, contact is made between Europe and Africa and between the Atlantic and the Mediterranean.
Environmental risks in the Strait of Gibraltar:
The increasing loss of water quality, habitat alterations and the diseases in marine species living in the region, land reclaimed from the sea, contamination resulting from oil spills and the impact of intense maritime transport, are just some of the pressures this marine environment must face.
Additionally, in the Strait, there is significant transport of dangerous merchandise due to the intense trade in chemical products and especially in hydrocarbons.
Furthermore, the strategic feature of the Strait as a transit area, means that it bears witness to bunkering (marine fuel supply, on moored vessels or via bunker barges with vessels at anchor); activities which could lead to pollution of various magnitudes.
What’s more, the existence of uncontrolled dumping of untreated waste from the coast, both from an industrial and urban origin, may be associated with a deterioration of the water quality in which these communities live.
In this context, water pollution may lead to a decline in habitat quality, which would bring about the extinction of those species most sensitive to pollution and the alteration of the structure and functioning of the biological community.
Cross-border cooperation in the Strait of Gibraltar area:
Cross-border cooperation between Andalusia and northern Morocco, financed by EU funding, is a key milestone in Andalusian-Moroccan relations. Since the 1990s, three cooperation programmes have taken place in succession, co-financed by the ERDF, the INTERREG II-A Spain-Morocco (1994-1999) Programme, the INTERREG III-A Spain Morocco (2000-2006) Programme and the Spain– External Borders Operational Programme for Cross-border Cooperation (POCTEFEX) (2008-2013). POCTEFEX’s overall aim is to bring about harmonious socio-economic and environmental development and to contribute to greater structuring of the Spain-Morocco cooperation space. The Programme sets out two territorial cooperation areas, which constitute its two main priorities, the Strait cooperation area and the Atlantic Cooperation Area.
Via the POCTEFEX programme, a total of 92 cooperation projects have got off the ground between Andalusia and northern Morocco in the Strait area. A wide array of organisations have taken part in these projects, particularly public administrations.
Regional government of Andalusia (Kingdom of Spain)
Department of institutional relations
General secretary for external affairs
Ministry of Presidency and local administration
Contact person: Celia Rosell Martí
Tel: +34 955035153
Email: Celia Rosell Martí
Regional council of Tanger-Tétouan-Al Hoceima
Rue des Amoureux Parc Brooks, Tanger, Maroc
Téléphone : +212 539373125
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