Gulf of Fonseca

Last updated
Gulf of Fonseca Satellite Image, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 2001 GOF Photo.jpg
Gulf of Fonseca Satellite Image, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration 2001
Map showing position of the Gulf (bottom left) with respect to Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua Honduras rel 1985.jpg
Map showing position of the Gulf (bottom left) with respect to Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua

The Gulf of Fonseca (Spanish : Golfo de Fonseca; pronounced  [ˈɡ ðe fonˈse.ka] ), part of the Pacific Ocean, is a gulf on Central America, bordering El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.



Fonseca Bay was discovered for Europeans in 1522 by Gil González de Ávila, and named by him after his patron, Archbishop Juan Fonseca, the implacable enemy of Columbus. [1]

In 1849, E. G. Squier negotiated a treaty for the United States to build a canal across Honduras from the Caribbean Sea to the Gulf. Frederick Chatfield, the British commander in Central America, was afraid the American presence in Honduras would destabilize the British Mosquito Coast, and sent his fleet to occupy El Tigre Island at the entrance to the Gulf. Shortly thereafter, however, Squier demanded the British leave, since he had anticipated the occupation and negotiated the island's temporary cession to the United States. Chatfield could only comply.[ why? ][ citation needed ]

All three countriesHonduras, El Salvador, and Nicaraguawith coastline along the Gulf have been involved in a lengthy dispute over the rights to the Gulf and the islands located within.

In 1917, the Central American Court of Justice ruled in a trial which became known as the Fonseca case. It arose out of a controversy between El Salvador and Nicaragua. The latter had entered the Bryan–Chamorro Treaty which granted a portion of the bay to the United States for the establishment of a naval base. El Salvador argued that this violated its right to common ownership in the bay. The court sided with El Salvador, but the US decided to ignore the decision. [2]

In 1992, a chamber of the International Court of Justice (ICJ) decided the Land, Island and Maritime Frontier Dispute, of which the Gulf dispute was a part. The ICJ determined that El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua were to share control of the Gulf of Fonseca. El Salvador was awarded the islands of Meanguera and Meanguerita, while Honduras was awarded El Tigre Island.

Physical geography

The Gulf of Fonseca covers an area of about 3,200 km2 (1,200 sq mi), with a coastline that extends for 261 km (162 mi), of which 185 km (115 mi) are in Honduras, 40 km (25 mi) in Nicaragua, and 29 km (18 mi) in El Salvador.

The climate in the Gulf is typical of tropical and subtropical regions, with two distinct seasons, the rainy and the dry. The Gulf receives nearly 80% of its total yearly rainfall of 1,400–1,600 mm (55–63 in) during the rainy season from May to November. [3] The dry season occurs between December and May and contributes to an annual evaporation rate of 2,800 mm (110 in). As a result of less water flowing into the Gulf, the currents tend to flow inward from the Pacific Ocean, and levels of salinity in the estuaries increase, and seasonal drought occurs. [4]

Temperatures in the Gulf average between 25 and 30 °C (77–86 °F); March and April are the warmest months and November and December the coolest. Relative humidity varies between 65 and 86% depending on location. In contrast, the interior of the country is semitropical and cooler with an average temperature of 26 °C (79 °F). [5]

The vegetation of the wetland ecosystem is dominated by species of mangroves. Of the six species of mangrove identified in the Gulf, red mangrove ( Rhizophora mangle ) is the most common, mostly occupying the areas permanently inundated by the tides. Black mangrove ( Avicennia germinans ) is the second-most pervasive species and is generally found around the rivers where sediments are deposited along the shoreline. White mangrove ( Laguncularia racemosa ) is the third-most dominant, followed by botoncillo ( Conocarpus erectus ); both are generally found further inland and are inundated by the tide less frequently. The dominance of different species over others correlates with the frequency of floods, water quality, and levels of salinity. [6]

The amplitude of tides is 2.3 m (7.5 ft) on average per day in the Gulf. During low tides, the soils are inhabited by crabs, conch, and other species. During the high tide, the mangrove forests serve as a feeding ground and habitat for fish, shrimp, and other species, as the root structure of mangroves provides a refuge from larger predators. [7]

A number of volcanoes lie within and around the gulf.

Related Research Articles

Geography of El Salvador Overview of countrys geological attributes

El Salvador borders the North Pacific Ocean to the south and southwest, with Guatemala to the north-northwest and Honduras to the north-northeast. In the southeast, the Golfo de Fonseca separates it from Nicaragua. El Salvador is the smallest Central American country and is the only one without a coastline on the Caribbean sea.

Geography of Honduras geographical information on the country Honduras Jennifer Lizzeth Bonilla Bonilla

Honduras is a country in Central America. Honduras borders the Caribbean Sea and the North Pacific Ocean. Guatemala lies to the west, Nicaragua south east and El Salvador to the south west. Honduras is the second largest Central American republic, with a total area of 112,890 square kilometres (43,590 sq mi).

Foreign relations of Nicaragua

Nicaragua pursues an independent foreign policy. A participant of the Central American Security Commission (CSC), Nicaragua also has taken a leading role in pressing for regional demilitarization and peaceful settlement of disputes within states in the region.

Football War 1969 War between Honduras and El Salvador

The Football War was a brief war fought between El Salvador and Honduras in 1969. Existing tensions between the two countries coincided with rioting during a 1970 FIFA World Cup qualifier. The war began on 14 July 1969, when the Salvadoran military launched an attack against Honduras. The Organization of American States (OAS) negotiated a cease-fire on the night of 18 July, which took full effect on 20 July. Salvadoran troops were withdrawn in early August.

Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina Department in Insular Region, Colombia

The Archipelago of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina, or, in everyday language, San Andrés y Providencia, is one of the departments of Colombia. It consists of two island groups in the Caribbean Sea about 775 km (482 mi) northwest of mainland Colombia, and eight outlying banks and reefs. The largest island of the archipelago is called San Andrés and its capital is San Andrés. The other large islands are Providencia and Santa Catalina Islands which lie to the north-east of San Andrés; their capital is Santa Isabel.

Serranilla Bank Uninhabited reef and islets in the western Caribbean Sea

Serranilla Bank is a partially submerged reef, with small uninhabited islets, in the western Caribbean Sea. It is situated about 350 kilometres (220 mi) northeast of Punta Gorda, Nicaragua, and roughly 280 kilometres (170 mi) southwest of Jamaica. The closest neighbouring land feature is Bajo Nuevo Bank, located 110 kilometres (68 mi) to the east.

Bajo Nuevo Bank Uninhabited reef and islets in the western Caribbean Sea

Bajo Nuevo Bank, also known as the Petrel Islands, is a small, uninhabited reef with some small grass-covered islets, located in the western Caribbean Sea at 15°53′N78°38′W, with a lighthouse on Low Cay at 15°51′N78°38′W. The closest neighbouring land feature is Serranilla Bank, located 110 kilometres to the west.

Meanguera del Golfo Municipality in La Unión Department, El Salvador

Meanguera del Golfo is a municipality in the La Unión department of El Salvador. Located 30 kilometres (19 mi) from department of La Unión and 213 km (132 mi) from San Salvador on the island of Meanguera in the Gulf of Fonseca. It has an area of 23.6 km2 (9.1 sq mi) with a population of 2,398 inhabitants (2007).

Serrana Bank

Serrana Bank is an atoll in the Atlantic Ocean. It is a mostly underwater reef about 50 km long and 13 km wide and has six cays, or islets, the largest of which is Southwest Cay.

Tiger Island mountain

El Tigre is an island located in the Gulf of Fonseca, a body of water on the Pacific coast of Central America. The island is a conical basaltic stratovolcano and the southernmost volcano in Honduras. It belongs to Valle department. Together with Isla Zacate Grande, Isla Comandante and a few tiny satellite islets and rocks, it forms the municipality of Amapala, with an area of 75.2 km2 (29.0 sq mi) and a population of 9,687 as of the census of 2001.

Conejo Island, in Spanish Isla Conejo, meaning "rabbit island", is a disputed island between El Salvador and Honduras located in the Gulf of Fonseca.

Territorial disputes of Nicaragua include the territorial dispute with Colombia over the Archipelago de San Andres y Providencia and Quita Sueno Bank. Nicaragua also has a maritime boundary dispute with Honduras in the Caribbean Sea and a boundary dispute over the Rio San Juan with Costa Rica.

Mangrove vireo species of bird

The mangrove vireo is a species of bird in the family Vireonidae.

The Central America bioregion is a biogeographic region comprising southern Mexico and Central America.

Colombia–Nicaragua relations Diplomatic relations between the Republic of Colombia and the Republic of Nicaragua

Colombia–Nicaragua relations entail the diplomatic relations between the Republic of Colombia and the Republic of Nicaragua. The relationship between the two Hispanic American countries has evolved amid conflicts over the San Andrés y Providencia Islands located in the Caribbean sea close to the Nicaraguan shoreline and the maritime boundaries covering 150,000 km² that included the islands of San Andrés, Providencia and Santa Catalina and the banks of Roncador, Serrana, Serranilla and Quitasueño as well as the 82nd meridian west which Colombia claims as a border but which the International Court has sided with Nicaragua in disavowing. The archipelago has been under Colombian control since 1931 when a treaty was signed during US occupation of Nicaragua, giving Colombia control over the islands.

Outline of Honduras Overview of and topical guide to Honduras

The following outline is provided as an overview of and topical guide to Honduras:

Index of Honduras-related articles Wikipedia list article

The following is an alphabetical list of topics related to the Republic of Honduras.

Frederick Chatfield was the United Kingdom's consul in Central America from 1834 to 1852, a key period in the decolonisation of the region.


  1. Wikisource-logo.svg One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain : Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Fonseca, Bay of". Encyclopædia Britannica . 10 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. pp. 604–605.
  2. "El Salvador v. Nicaragua, CACJ, Judgment of 9 March 1917, 11 Am. J. Int'l L. 674 (1917)" . Retrieved 4 June 2017.
  3. Honduran Secretariat of Industry and Commerce, 2002: 23
  4. El Comité para la Defensa y Desarrollo de la Flora y Fauna del Golfo de Fonseca (CODDEFFAGOLF), 2001: 10
  5. Honduran Secretariat of Industry and Commerce, 2002: 14
  6. Sanchez, 1999: 13
  7. CODDEFFAGOLF, 2001: 14

Coordinates: 13°15′N87°45′W / 13.250°N 87.750°W / 13.250; -87.750