The channel or strait of Sicily is the strait between Sicily and Tunisia. It divides the Tyrrhenian Sea and the western Mediterranean Sea from the eastern Mediterranean.
The island of Pantelleria lies in the middle of the strait. At the narrowest point of the strait, between Capo Feto, near Mazara del Vallo, Cape Bon and near El Haouaria, the width is about 145 km. Its maximum depth is 316 m. Deep currents in the strait flow from east to west, whereas current close to the surface of the water travels in the opposite direction. This unusual water flow is of interest to oceanographers. It is the European gateway to Maghreb Area and Northern Africa. One of the world most important underwater Heritage sites.
Cross-boundary cooperation in the strait
Cooperation in the strait is a long way process that started in 1995.
Since 1995, this area has been covered by the Protocol of the Barcelona Convention Concerning Mediterranean Specially Protected Areas and Biological Diversity in the Mediterranean (SPA/BD Protocol), which is applicable to all marine waters of the Mediterranean.
Since 2003, this area has been in line with the policy declaration of the “Declaration of the European Community ministerial conference for the sustainable development of fisheries in the Mediterranean”. Since 2004, (Decision No 884/2004/Ec Of The European Parliament And Of The Council Of 29 April 2004) this area has been part of Motorway of the Sea of South-West Europe (TransEuropean corridor No 21) which includes western Mediterranean, connecting Spain, France, Italy and including Malta and linking with the Motorway of the Sea of south-east Europe and including links to the Black Sea. The concept aims at introducing new inter-modal maritime-based logistics chains to bring about a structural change to transport organisation: door-to-door integrated transport chains. The maritime transport strategy for 2018 will positively contribute to greenhouse gas (CO2) reductions which is of paramount importance in the context of climate change.
Main environmental challenges of the strait
Since 2006, this area has been involved in several cross border cooperation programmes funded by the EU. One of the most important is ENPI CBC Programme Italy Tunisia, focusing on environmental, institutional cooperation and cultural issues. Focused on attracting business is the ENPI MED programme. Since 2007, Italy has been legally obliged to implement the Natura 2000 network of protected areas in their waters, in principle also outside territorial waters (EC 2007). Here only those provisions of the European Habitats Directive apply which concern benthic habitats and sedentary species. There are several institutions such as the Italian Tunisian Chamber of Commerce, the Sicilian Tunisian Parliamentary Friendship Association and plenty of successful experiences of bilateral cooperation.
The expectation is to ensure the economic development of the territory without endangering the biodiversity and environment, in fact the preservation of biodiversity was identified as the nodal point of all issues straits have to face.
Regional Province of Trapani / Provincia Regionale di Trapani (Italy)
The Province of Trapani (PoT) is the Sicilian border of the Strait of Sicily, facing Tunisia.
The central position of the province of Trapani in the Mediterranean Sea constitutes the gateway of Africa, located midway between the Straits of Gibraltar and the Suez Canal. The PoT is also the focus of major operations of the decentralized cooperation for crossborder cooperation programs Italy-Malta and Italy-Tunisia actively committed in the formulation of policies and projects in partnership with scientific, environmental and cultural agencies.