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The Gulf of Guinea

The Gulf of Guinea is part of the eastern North Atlantic Ocean off the western African coast, extending from Cap López near the equator to Cape Palmas at 8 degree West longitude. The narrow shelf partly steeply slopes towards the deep-sea.


The Gulf of Guinea is located in the tropical climate zone with daily rainfall around noon. The extremely high summer precipitation of 30 centimeters (≈300 mm) in July equals roughly 50 per cent of the annual rainfall e.g. in Northern Germany. The warm and turbulent Guinea Current is coming from the Northwest and flowing along the African coast towards the East. Around the Equator, the Guinea Current hits the cold Benguela Current coming from the South.


The Gulf of Guinea is rich in marine resources. However, the coastal waters and mangroves, playing an important role as nursery areas for fishes and shrimp, have suffered from industrial, urban, agricultural and other forms of pollution. Possibly as a result, significant variations in species composition and fisheries landings were reported over the past two decades.


Different islands rise along a submarine volcanic chain off the African coast. The most popular islands - San Tome and Principe - are lying some 350 kilometers from the coast. The two islands were forest-covered and uninhabited when they were discovered by the Portuguese in 1471, but by the end of the century the islands were already cultivated. The Portuguese explorer and naturalist Francisco Newton spent ten years on the islands of the Gulf of Guinea from 1885 to 1895, and discovered many of the islands' endemic species.


Most common marine species in the Gulf of Guinea are turtles, fish (e.g. tuna), sharks, lobsters, shrimps, crabs, cephalopods, bivalves and gastropods. Around the San Tome and Principe Archipelago, a total of 127 fish species belonging to more than 100 genus and 60 families were identified. Furthermore, this region holds a poorly known seabird community. For example, Tinhosas islets temporarily hold a minimum of 300,000 breeding seabirds in an area of just 24 ha and became recently under threat due to seabird harvesting by fishermen.


The Gulf of Guinea was - and still is - one of the richest offshore oil producing regions in the World. The exploitation of major offshore oil deposits began in the late 1990s. Different worldwide operating companies exploit oil occurrences in extreme water depths ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 meters. Besides fossil hydrocarbons, also metal ore deposits are exploited in the region.



Main islands and island groups

Annobon Island, Bioko Island, Fernano Poo Island, San Tome and Principe Archipelago


Major tributaries

Volta, Niger and Sanaga Rivers


Major States along the coast

Benin, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Liberia, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Togo