The Gulf of
Panama (Spanish: Golfo de Panamá) is a gulf in the
Pacific Ocean, near the southern coast of Panama. It has a maximum
width of 250 kilometres (160 mi), a maximum depth of 220 metres
(720 ft) and the size of 2,400 square kilometres
(930 sq mi). The
Panama Canal connects the Gulf of Panama
Caribbean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. The Panamanian capital
Panama City is the main urban centre on the gulf shore.
The gulf itself also contains a few minor gulfs, with
Panama Bay to
Gulf of Parita
Gulf of Parita to the west and
Gulf of San Miguel
Gulf of San Miguel to the
east. The gulf has a few islands and on the coast there are a few
important ports, like
Panama City, La Palma and Chitrè. The Pearl
Islands archipelago is a group of over two hundred islands situated to
the east in the gulf.
Panama’s largest river, Tuira, flows south into the Gulf of San
4 Environmental concerns
5 Laws and regulations
6 Conservation efforts
Tourism is a very large part of the Panamanian economy, and much of it
revolves around the
Panama Bay.The most popular attraction being the
Pearl Islands, with its clear, nutrient rich water and diverse
wildlife drawing many tourists and divers to explore the archipelago.
Pearl Islands are the most popular tourist destination in
Panama Bay, the local communities have adapted and changed due to
the touristic developments. Some islands, such as Pedro González,
have been positively affected by the boom in tourism, as the Islanders
believe it is good for the local economy. The local inhabitants of
other islands such as Contadora believe that tourism is bad for the
islands, and wish to preserve the local culture.
The climate in the
Panama Bay region is extreme, ranging from and
extreme dry season (Jan-April) to an extreme wet season.
(May–December) This has a major influence on the mangroves in the
region, since the dry season as well as El Niño bring strong storms
that can damage the Mangroves and disrupt their reproductive
Main article: Gulf of
Mangroves are an essential part of the bay ecosystem and habitats.
These mangroves are crucial to the local bird species’ long term
survival, as they provide shelter and nutrients to the local bird
species. Over 20 species were documented in the bay at over 57
locations, mostly in the Pearl Island region.
Brown Pelicans are the
most abundant birds in the bay, with
Cattle Egrets and Great Egrets
also populating a large portion. The other most plentiful birds in the
bay include: The Sooty Tern, Bridled Tern, White Ibis, Glossy Ibis,
Little Blue Heron, Cocoi Heron, Bare-Throated Tiger Heron, Black
Crowned Night Heron, Blue Footed Booby, Brown Booby, Magnificent
Frigatebird, Great Egret, and Snowy Egret. The Seabirds also are an
indicator of the health of the fish, which rely on the nutrient rich
debris of the mangroves to survive.
Mangroves have also been used by local communities for centuries for
their charcoal, long lasting fuel wood, poles, bark, and are still an
important part of the local communities to this day. Since the seafood
and nutrients are abundant in the waters of the bay, it has been
proved an advantageous place to live for thousands of years, dating
back to the late Preceramic Period, around 6000 B.C. A recent
discovery of dolphin remains in a Preceramic hunter-gatherer
encampment on the
Pearl Islands suggests that the ancient inhabitants
of the islands did not only hunt small fish, but larger ones such as
dolphins and sharks. The nutrient-rich water draws a significant
amount of fish and sea animals to the
Panama Bay, giving the ancient
hunter-gatherers a wide variety to choose from. Evidence was found
that these inhabitants lived mainly off of fish and turtles in the
bay, but dolphins and sharks were also exploited for their meat,
bones, and oil. One major problem that researchers found was that it
is unclear whether the primitive hunter-gatherers systematically
hunted the dolphins, or merely herded them towards the islands until
they became beached. Nonetheless, this is still an important discovery
as it is the first Preceramic site identified in the Pearl Islands, as
well as the first evidence in Central America that the early
inhabitants exploited dolphins for food.
There has been concern recently relating to the environmental health
Panama Bay, as industry has grown significantly in the Panama
City area in recent years, specifically the oil industry. Petroleum is
both a major import and export of
Panama City, and as such, the
concern for oil spills and how they would affect the bay is
significant. Another great concern is the destruction and
utilization of the mangroves in the bay. Both the wildlife in the bay
and the human population rely on the mangroves for survival. The
mangroves in the bay are also not only threatened by siltation by
excessive erosion, dam construction, and pesticides from the local
farms, but also by the utilization of these mangroves for industrial
Laws and regulations
The creation of the
Panama Canal in 1914 was a major breakthrough in
terms of international transport, as it formed
Panama and the
surrounding area as a new international hub of trade and transport.
However, although it brought business to the area, the new boom in
transport in the area took a major toll on the environment. As the
Panamanian economy has grown over the years, so have the laws and
policies relating to it, specifically marine policy. Marine resources
in and around the
Panama Bay are key to many major industries such as
farming and fishing, and over 80% of the surrounding population
directly rely on them to survive. Although the laws that have been put
into place over the years made major changes to the infrastructure and
government, there are still major gaps in the enforcement and
structure of these laws.
Many of the laws put into place did not have conservation of the
environment in mind, and mainly focused on business. Water treatment
is a major problem in the
Panama Bay, as much of the once pure water
is now polluted with sewage and chemical waste. Sewage treatment is
poor in a large portion of Panama, and due to the lack of proper waste
management plants, raw sewage from sewage tanks is often dumped into
the bay with little to no treatment.
Panama City and the surrounding
areas draw clean drinking water from the
Panama Canal watershed, but
the recent boom in urbanization and pollution threatens the quality of
the drinking water. The Panamanian Government as well as
non-governmental organizations are working towards conservation of the
watershed, but the loose laws towards industry and waste management
make this hard to achieve.
In 2009, The
Panama Bay was declared a "Wetland of International
Importance" by the Ramsar Convention, an international convention for
the protection of wetlands of international importance. However, this
status was temporarily suspended in 2012 by the Panamanian Government
to protect Industry and farming. This sparked controversy amongst
environmentalists, and in 2013 the bay regained protected status under
the Panamanian Supreme court, with the help and support of the Panama
In February 2015, the Panamanian President
Juan Carlos Varela
Juan Carlos Varela signed
into law the ban of construction in the 210,000 acre area of the Bay
of Panama, and declared the bay a "wetlands complex as a protected
wildlife refuge area". This action was controversial within the
Panamanian Government as the previous president, Ricardo Martinelli,
was criticized by environmentalists for his neglect of the destruction
of the mangroves in the
Panama Bay. This law was put into place mainly
to conserve the mangrove forests and stop erosion, as well as to
protect the habitats of the migratory shorebirds.
^ "Gulf of
Panama mangroves". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife
^ "Buscando Las Perlas: Aproximación Al Fenómeno Del Turismo Como
Proceso Social Y Cultural En El Archipiélago De Las Perlas, Panamá."
(2010): OAIster. Web. 15 Feb. 2016.
^ Jimenez, Jorge A. 1999. Ambiente, distribucíon y características
estructurales en los manglares del Pacífico de Centro América:
contrastes climáticos. Yáñez-Arancibia, Alejandro and Ana Laura
Lara-Domínguez, editors. Ecosistemas de Manglar en América Tropical.
Instituto de Ecologia, A.C. Xalapa, México; UICN/ORMA Costa Rica;
NOAA/NMFS Silver Spring MD USA.
^ Angehr, George R. "Seabird and Colonial Wading Bird Nesting in the
Gulf of Panama." Waterbirds: The International Journal of Waterbird
Biology 30.3 (2007): 335-57. JSTOR. Web. 09 Feb. 2016.
^ Cooke, Richard G. et al. "Exploitation of Dolphins (Cetacea:
Delphinidae) at a 6000 Yr Old Preceramic Site in the Pearl Island
Archipelago, Panama." Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports n.
pag. ScienceDirect. Web. 9 Feb. 2016.
Panama Imports and Exports". The Observatory of Economic Compexity.
Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved Feb 9, 2016.
^ D’Croz L. 1993. Status and uses of mangroves in the Republic of
Panamá. L.D. Lacerda, editor. Conservation and sustainable
utilization of Mangrove Forests in Latin America and Africa Regions.
Part 1; Volume 2.
Panama Bight Mangroves". World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved Feb 14,
^ Spalding, Ana K., Daniel O. Suman, and Maria Eugenia Mellado.
"Navigating the Evolution of Marine Policy in Panama: Current Policies
and Community Responses in the
Pearl Islands and Bocas Del Toro
Archipelagos of Panama." Marine Policy 62 (2015): 161–168. Web. 9
^ "Environmental Issues in Panama". Anywhere Panama. Retrieved 15
Panama Bay Regains Limited Protected Status". National Audubon
Society. April 5, 2013. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
^ Ontiveros, Roberto (Feb 10, 2015). "Environmental Issues: Panamanian
Juan Carlos Varela
Juan Carlos Varela Protects Wetlands Outside
From Construction". Retrieved Feb 9, 2016.
Coordinates: 8°05′11″N 79°16′58″W / 8.08642°N
79.28284°W / 8.08642; -79.28284
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