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Diagram of a strait

A strait or straits is a narrow, navigable channel of water that connects two larger navigable bodies of water. It most commonly refers to a channel of water that lies between two land masses, but it may also refer to a navigable channel through a body of water that is otherwise not navigable, for example because it is too shallow, or because it contains an unnavigable reef or archipelago.



The terms channel, firth, pass or passage, and sound can be synonymous and used interchangeably with strait, although each is sometimes differentiated with varying senses. Many straits are economically important. Straits can be important shipping routes, and wars have been fought for control of these straits.

Numerous artificial channels, called canals, have been constructed to connect two bodies of water over land. Although rivers and canals often provide passage between two large lakes or a lake and a sea, and these seem to suit the formal definition of straits, they are not usually referred to as such. The term strait is typically reserved for much larger, wider features of the marine environment. There are exceptions, with straits being called canals, Pearse Canal, for example.


Straits are the converse of isthmi. That is, while straits lie between two land masses and connect two larger bodies of water, isthmi lie between two bodies of water and connect two larger land masses.

Some straits have the potential to generate significant tidal power using tidal stream turbines. Tides are more predictable than wave power or wind power. The Pentland Firth (actually a strait) may be capable of generating 10 GW.[1] Cook Strait in New Zealand may be capable of generating 12GW.[2]

Navigational (legal) regime

Straits used for international navigation through the territorial sea between one part of the high seas or an exclusive economic zone and another part of the high seas or an exclusive economic zone are subject to the legal regime of transit passage (Strait of Gibraltar, Dover Strait, Strait of Hormuz). The regime of innocent passage applies in straits used for international navigation (1) that connect a part of high seas or an exclusive economic zone with the territorial sea of coastal nation (Strait of Tiran, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Strait of Baltiysk) and (2) in straits formed by an island of a state bordering the strait and its mainland if there exists seaward of the island a route through the high seas or through an exclusive economic zone of similar convenience with respect to navigational and hydrographical characteristics (Strait of Messina, Pentland Firth). There may be no suspension of innocent passage through such straits.

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