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 fon.ˈse.ka] ), part of the Pacific Ocean, is a gulf on Central America, bordering El Salvador, Honduras, and Nicaragua.

Spanish language Romance language

Spanish or Castilian is a Romance language that originated in the Castile region of Spain and today has hundreds of millions of native speakers in the Americas and Spain. It is a global language and the world's second-most spoken native language, after Mandarin Chinese.

Pacific Ocean Ocean between Asia and Australia in the west, the Americas in the east and Antarctica or the Southern Ocean in the south.

The Pacific Ocean is the largest and deepest of Earth's oceanic divisions. It extends from the Arctic Ocean in the north to the Southern Ocean in the south and is bounded by Asia and Australia in the west and the Americas in the east.

Both headland and bay are two coastal features that are related and often found on the same coastline. A bay is a body of water—usually seawater and sometimes fresh water— mostly surrounded by land, whereas a headland is surrounded by water on three sides. Headlands are characterized by breaking waves, rocky shores, intense erosion and steep sea cliffs. Bays generally have less wave activity and typically have sandy beaches. Headlands and bays form on discordant coastlines, where the land consists of bands of rock of alternating resistance that run perpendicular to the coast.



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]

Gil González Dávila Spanish colonial governor

Gil González Dávila or Gil González de Ávila was a Spanish Conquistador and the first European to arrive in present-day Nicaragua.

Juan Rodriguez de Fonseca (1451–1524) was a Spanish archbishop, a courtier and bureaucrat, whose position as royal chaplain to Queen Isabella enabled him to become a powerful counsellor to Ferdinand and Isabella, the Catholic Monarchs, serving as the president of the Council of the Indies.

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 ]

E. G. Squier American archaeologist and newspaper editor

Ephraim George Squier, usually cited as E. G. Squier, was an American archaeologist and newspaper editor.

United States Federal republic in North America

The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country comprising 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.

Caribbean Sea A sea of the Atlantic Ocean bounded by North, Central, and South America

The Caribbean Sea is a sea of the Atlantic Ocean in the tropics of the Western Hemisphere. It is bounded by Mexico and Central America to the west and south west, to the north by the Greater Antilles starting with Cuba, to the east by the Lesser Antilles, and to the south by the north coast of South America.

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]

The Bryan–Chamorro Treaty was signed between Nicaragua and The United States on August 5, 1914. The Wilson administration changed the treaty by adding a provision similar in language to that of the Platt Amendment, which would have authorized United States military intervention in Nicaragua. The United States Senate opposed the new provision; in response, it was dropped and the treaty was formally ratified on June 19, 1916.

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.

International Court of Justice Primary judicial organ of the United Nations

The International Court of Justice (ICJ) sometimes called the World Court, is the principal judicial organ of the United Nations (UN). The ICJ's primary functions are to settle international legal disputes submitted by states and give advisory opinions on legal issues referred to it by the UN. Through its opinions and rulings, it serves as a source of international law.

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.

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]

Salinity The proportion of salt dissolved in a body of water

Salinity is the saltiness or amount of salt dissolved in a body of water, called saline water. This is usually measured in . Salinity is an important factor in determining many aspects of the chemistry of natural waters and of biological processes within it, and is a thermodynamic state variable that, along with temperature and pressure, governs physical characteristics like the density and heat capacity of the water.

Estuary A partially enclosed coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea

An estuary is a partially enclosed coastal body of brackish water with one or more rivers or streams flowing into it, and with a free connection to the open sea.

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 ( Bruguiera gymnorhiza ) 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 cycle 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 Honduras geographical information on the country Honduras

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.

<i>Nicaragua v. United States</i> legal case

The Republic of Nicaragua v. The United States of America (1986) ICJ 1 is a public international law case decided by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). The ICJ ruled in favor of Nicaragua and against the United States and awarded reparations to Nicaragua. The ICJ held that the U.S. had violated international law by supporting the Contras in their rebellion against the Nicaraguan government and by mining Nicaragua's harbors. The United States refused to participate in the proceedings after the Court rejected its argument that the ICJ lacked jurisdiction to hear the case. The U.S. also blocked enforcement of the judgment by the United Nations Security Council and thereby prevented Nicaragua from obtaining any compensation. Nicaragua, under the later, post-FSLN government of Violeta Chamorro, withdrew the complaint from the court in September 1992 following a repeal of the law which had required the country to seek compensation.

Football War Salvadorian lost war against Honduras

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 18 July. Salvadoran troops were withdrawn in early August.

Choluteca Department Place in Honduras

Choluteca is one of the 18 departments (departamentos) into which Honduras is divided. The departmental capital is city of Choluteca. The Choluteca River runs through the department.

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

The Serrana Bank14°20′N80°20′W is an atoll in the Atlantic Ocean. It is mostly an underwater reef of about 50 km long and 13 km wide and has six cays, or islets, the most prominent of which is Southwest Cay.

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.

Index of Honduras-related articles Wikimedia 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