Cintra Bay or the Gulf of Cintra is a large, half-moon shaped bay on the coast of Río de Oro province, Western Sahara. It is located about 120 km south of Dakhla region and its coastline is scarcely populated and thus keeping wild environment on today.
The area was named after Gonçalo de Sintra, hence the bay's center point was named the same as his name.
The Bay is about 24 and more kilometers in diameter, lining from the northern cape Puntilla de las Raimas near Via Candelaria and Hassi Amatai to the Puntila Negra near Las Talaitas with about 12 or more kilometers in width from the deepest point of the bay is at Hasi el Beied, locating on near middle of Cintra Bay. Gulf waters are consisted of inner Angra de Citra and outer areas of Bajo El Tortugo, Bajo Ahogado, and Bajo del Medio Golfo. Waters on pelagic out of Cintra Bay is called Bajo Arcila. Cliffs, beaches, and lagoons are the majorities of coastal landscapes. A large lagoon, Bajo Tortugo ("Bay of the Little Tortoise") is in northern side and there is an area named Las Matorrales in southern part. Several hills that some of which are with flattened top or peaks can be seen along the region.
Across the opposite side of Las Taraitas and Morro de Gorrei, there lies the Bay of Gorrei or the Bahia de Gorrei, a very similar-shaped but smaller than Cintra Bay. Interestingly, there are several other bays or inlets of shapes almost identical to Cintra or Gorrei Bays along Rio de Oro region.
Contrasts to land, waters in this area are parts of the Canary Current System, a highly productive ocean current and the Nouadhibou Upwelling, one of major upwelling zones locates just off the continent shelf. This makes the area one of the richest grounds for fishery in the world, and Cintra Bay itself serves as a spawning ground for sardines. However, the natural environment and bio diversities of Cintra Bay are under threat of ongoing plan to strengthen Morocco's aquacultures.
Based on 19th-century whaling records, Cintra Bay and Bahia de Gorrei are the only known locations where the eastern North Atlantic population of North Atlantic right whales ever used as a wintering or calving ground historically. These whales are now thought to be either extinct or in the low-tens of animals at best left. In the 18th and 19th century, the Cintra Bay Ground was one of three or four major grounds for right whale hunting in the North Atlantic along with the south-eastern coastal United States, Cape Farewell in Greenland, and probably the Icelandic region and also being one of two winter-spring fields along with the US coasts. A total of approximately 92 whales and some more were killed during 44 visits by whalers from November to April, giving this region the highest catch density in the 19th century, though whaling was not carried out during all seasons where 92 of those animals were actually taken in the first two years of 1855-56, probably with some other species such as the Humpbacks. A scientific survey throughout the coasts extending to Dakhla peninsula/bay was conducted in 1998 and no evidence of any right whales still using the area was found. It was also found that these coastal waters were surprisingly poor in cetacean biodiversity, only two species were found regularly but within very small numbers and both were found only in the Dakhla Bay region: larger type of Bottlenose dolphins and Atlantic humpback dolphins. Killer whales are known to occur along coasts of Western Sahara today and occasionally in large numbers in the past days according to whaling logs along with blackfish, the Pilot Whales.
- Recent studies allowed hopes that Cinta Bay may possibly be recolonized by Right whales from the western population in the future, as the two populations have been revealed to be much closer to each other than in theories thought in the past.
Regardless of habitat densities, for baleen whales, at least Fins, Brydes', Seis, and Minke Whales are known to still occur along the coasts of Western Sahara. Of these, Fin whales and Bryde's whales had been confirmed in Dakhla and Cintra - Gorrei areas. Other species such as Risso's Dolphins, Common Dolphins, Rough-toothed Dolphins, and Harbor Porpoises that have been confirmed in Bay of Arguin area may possibly occur here as well.
Now-extinct Atlantic Gray Whales were likely used to be seen in the bay as well, but there are no evidences or records proving this idea.
Along with cetaceans, Cintra Bay may provide an important habitat for critically endangered Mediterranean Monk Seals. They were severely hunted to the brink of extinction especially in the 15th century by European sealers and local tribes, and are now almost extinct in the Mediterranean Sea. Though not in Cintra Bay, Cabo Blanco on Dakhla Peninsula still hosts the largest of remaining colonies in the world.
Many species of migratory birds and oceanic birds such as Western Palearctic waders inhabit for wintering on West Sahara´s coastline and more notably in the Cintra Bay region and the Banc d'Arguin National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Mauritania where nearly 110species of sea birds are confirmed. Based on bio-tracking studies, osprey is also a species to migrate here.
The area is very remoted and almost unpopulated as only several small fishing settlements of shacks are scattered along the coast. Of these, Puntillas de las Raimas which is at Bajo Tortugo, the northern end of the bay is the largest. However, the village drastically shrunk in population size for the past decade, and the fishing village of Las Raimas was almost abandoned as of 2012.
The closest urban city is at Dakhla, approximately 120 km away from Cintra Bay.
- Burkhalter M. (2011). "Cintra Bay West Sahara". p. Panoramio. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
- Around Guides. Angra de Cintra. Retrieved on December 27. 2014
- "Fishery Audit Report Checklist" (PDF). Associazione Friend of the Sea. Retrieved 2014-12-27.
- The Sahara Question. 2013. SPANISH CONSORTIUM WINS MOROCCO TENDER TO DEVELOP AQUACULTURE IN DAKHLA REGION. Retrieved on December 26. 2014
- Reeves R.R. (2001). "Overview of catch history, historic abundance and distribution of right whales in the western North Atlantic and in Cintra Bay, West Africa.". Journal of Cetacean Research and Management.2. pp. 187–192.
- Silvia A M., Steiner L.,Cascao I., Cruz J.M., Prieto R., Cole T., Hamilton K.P., Baumgartner M. (2012). "Winter sighting of a known western North Atlantic right whale in the Azores" (PDF). Journal of Cetacean Research and Management.12: 65–69. Retrieved 2013-04-28.
- Reeves, R.R. and Mitchell, E. (1986). "American pelagic whaling for right whales in the North Atlantic." (PDF). Report of the International Whaling Commission Special Issue 10: 221–254. Retrieved 2013-10-09.
- Notarbartolo di Sciara G., Politi E., Bayed A., Beaubrun.P.C. and Knowlton A. (1998). Donovan P.G. et al., eds. SC/49/O 3 "A Winter Cetacean Survey off Southern Morocco, With a Special Emphasis on Right Whales" (PDF). The annual report of the International Whaling Commission.48: 547–551. Retrieved 2013-04-28.
- Ed Temperley. "Postcards From The Sahara". MSW-Magic Sea Weed. Retrieved 2013-12-02.
- "A whale named Pico". Whale and Dolphin Conservation. 11 April 2014. p. nicola.hodgins's blog. Retrieved 2014-04-28.
- Walsh D. (2006), Sei Whale, Greenpeace, p. the DaveWalshPhoto.com, retrieved 2014-12-19
- White R. (2013), At Sea, from Senegal to Western Sahara - Apr 17, 2013 - National Geographic Explorer, the Lindblad Expeditions - National Geographic, retrieved 2014-12-19
- WAEREBEEK V.K., ANDREi M., SEQUEIRAi M., MARTIN V., ROBINEAU D., COLLET A., NDIAYE E.P.V. "Spatial and temporal distribution of the minke Whale,Balaenoptera acutorostrata (Lacépede, 1804), in the southernnortheast Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, With reference to stock identity" (PDF). J. CETACEAN RES. MANAGE. l(3): 223–237. Retrieved 2014-12-20.
- Paul Wildlifewriter. 2014. Ghost Town - Geography lessons from Ospreys #437. Retrieved on December 26. 2014
- Tiwari M., Aksissou M., Semmoumy S., Ouakka K. (2006). "Morocco Footprint Handbook". Footprint Travel Guides. p. 265. Retrieved 2014-12-27.
- "Footprint Travel Guides". p. South into the Sahara. Retrieved 2013-09-16.
- Johnson M.W., Karamanlidis A.A., Dendrinos P., Larrinoa D.F.P., Gazo M., González M.L., Güçlüsoy H., Pires R., Schnellmann M., Mediterranean Monk Seal Fact Sheet, The Monachus Guardian, retrieved 2014-12-19
- Tiwari M., Aksissou M., Semmoumy S., Ouakka K. (2006). "Sea Turtle Surveys in Southern Morocco (Plage Blanche – Porto Rico) in July 2006" (PDF). A Report to the Institut National de Recherche Halieutique, Casablanca, Kingdom of Morocco. Retrieved 2014-12-19.
- "Deserts and xeric shrublands - Atlantic coastal desert". p. WWF-World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved 2013-09-16.
- Rufino R., Neves R., Pina J.P. (1998). "Wintering waders in Dakhla Bay, Western Sahara" (PDF). Wader Study Group Bull. 87: 26–29. Retrieved 2014-12-26.
- Dailey J.. 2014. UV and the Gulf of Cintra. Retrieved on December 26. 2014
- Triptrafic1. 2012. Sur les traces de l’Aéropostale.. www.Trafic-Amenage.com. Retrieved on January 01. 2015