Seas of the Pacific Ocean

List of the 12 Marginal Seas Surrounding the Pacific

Australia, Great Barrier Reef, heart shaped reef, aerial view.
Australia, Great Barrier Reef.

Grant Faint / Getty Images

The Pacific Ocean is the largest of the world's five oceans. It has a total area of 60.06 million square miles (155.557 million sq km) and it stretches from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south and has coastlines along the continents of Asia, Australia, North America, and South America. In addition, some areas of the Pacific Ocean feed into what is called a marginal sea instead of pushing right up against the coastlines of the aforementioned continents. By definition, a marginal sea is an area of water that is a "partially enclosed sea adjacent to or widely open to the open ocean". Confusingly a marginal sea is also sometimes referred to as a Mediterranean sea, which shouldn't be confused with the actual sea named the Mediterranean.

Marginal Seas of the Pacific Ocean

The Pacific Ocean shares its borders with 12 different marginal seas. The following is a list of those seas arranged by area. 

Philippine Sea

Area: 2,000,000 square miles (5,180,000 sq km)

Coral Sea

Area: 1,850,000 square miles (4,791,500 sq km)

The South China Sea

Area: 1,350,000 square miles (3,496,500 sq km)

Tasman Sea

Area: 900,000 square miles (2,331,000 sq km)

Bering Sea

Area: 878,000 square miles (2,274,020 sq km)

The East China Sea

Area: 750,000 square miles (1,942,500 sq km)

The Sea of Okhotsk

Area: 611,000 square miles (1,582,490 sq km)

The Sea of Japan

Area: 377,600 square miles (977,984 sq km)

Yellow Sea

Area: 146,000 square miles (378,140 sq km)

Celebes Sea

Area: 110,000 square miles (284,900 sq km)

Sulu Sea

Area: 100,000 square miles (259,000 sq km)

The Sea of Chiloé

Area: Unknown

The Great Barrier Reef

The Coral Sea located in the Pacific Ocean is home to one of nature's greatest wonders, the Great Barrier Reef. It is the world's largest coral reef system which is made up of almost 3,000 individual corals. Off the coast of Australia, the Great Barrier Reef is one of the nation's most popular tourist destinations. For the Aboriginal population of Australia, the reef is culturally and spiritually important. The reef is home to 400 types of coral animals and over 2,000 species of fish. Much of the marine life that calls the reef home, like sea turtles and several whale species. 

Unfortunately, climate change is killing the Great Barrier Reef. Rising ocean temperatures cause coral to release the algae that not only live in it but are also the main source of food for the coral. Without its algae, the coral is still alive but is slowly starving to death. This release of algae is known as coral bleaching. By 2016 over 90 percent of the Reef had suffered from coral bleaching and 20 percent of the coral had died. As even humans depend upon coral reef ecosystems for food the loss of the world's largest coral reef system would have devastating effects on the planet. Scientists hope they can stem the tide of climate change and preserve natural wonders like coral reefs.

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Briney, Amanda. "Seas of the Pacific Ocean." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, Briney, Amanda. (2020, August 27). Seas of the Pacific Ocean. Retrieved from Briney, Amanda. "Seas of the Pacific Ocean." ThoughtCo. (accessed May 30, 2023).