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 bay is generally shallow, and 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 centuries, 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.
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 110 species of seabirds 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.
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