Gulf of Fonseca (Central America)
The Gulf of Fonseca, a sheltered inlet of the Pacific Ocean, is a gulf in Central America that is bounded in the northwest by El Salvador, the northeast by Honduras and the southeast by Nicaragua. Notable among the islands in the gulf are Zacate Grande, El Tigre and Meanguera.
Gulf of Fonseca
The Gulf of Fonseca, a sheltered inlet of the Pacific Ocean, is a gulf in Central America that is bounded in the northwest by El Salvador, the northeast by Honduras, and the southeast by Nicaragua.
Discovered for the Europeans in 1522 by Gil González de Ávila, he named it after his patron, Archbishop Juan Fonseca, the implacable enemy of Columbus.
Reaching inland for approximately 65 km (40 mi), the Gulf of Fonseca covers an area of about 1,800 sq km (700 sq mi). Notable among the islands in the Gulf are Zacate Grande, El Tigre, and Meanguera.
The Gulf of Fonseca has a coastline that extends for 261 km (162 mi), of which 185 km (115 mi) are in Honduras, 40 km (25 mi) are in Nicaragua, and 29 km (18 mi) are in El Salvador.
The Gulf is fed by the Goascorán, Choluteca, and Negro rivers of Honduras and the Estero Real River of Nicaragua. The Gulf's shores are covered with mangrove swamps, except in the west, where Conchagua Volcano in El Salvador rises sharply from the coast. Notable among the islands in the Gulf are Zacate Grande, El Tigre, and Meanguera.
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 yearly rainfall of 1,400 - 1,600 mm (55 - 63 in) during the rainy season from May to November. 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, salinity levels in the estuaries increase, and seasonal drought occurs.
Temperatures in the Gulf average between 25 and 30 °C (77 and 86 °F); March and April are the warmest, and November and December are the coolest. Relative humidity varies between 65 and 86% depending on location. In contrast, the country's interior is semitropical and cooler, with an average temperature of 26 °C (79 °F).
Mangroves dominate the wetland ecosystem's vegetation. Of the six species of mangrove identified in the Gulf, the red mangrove (Rhizophora mangle) is the most common, mostly occupying the areas 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 less frequently inundated by the tide.
All three countries with coastlines along the Gulf (Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua) have been involved in a lengthy dispute over the rights to the Gulf and its islands.
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. Accordingly, El Salvador was awarded the islands of Meanguera and Meanguerita, while Honduras was awarded El Tigre Island.
Map showing the position of the Gulf of Fonseca (bottom left) to Honduras, El Salvador, and Nicaragua.