Gulf of Panama

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).[1] The Panama Canal connects the Gulf of Panama with the Caribbean Sea and the Pacific 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 the north, Gulf of Parita to the west and 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 Miguel.

Gulf of Panama with minor gulfs.


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. Since the Pearl Islands are the most popular tourist destination in the 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.[2]


The climate in the Panama Bay region is extreme, ranging from an 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 cycles.[3]


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.[4]

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.[5]

Environmental concerns

There has been concern recently relating to the environmental health of the 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.[6] 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.[7] 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 farming.[8]

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.[9]

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.[10]

Conservation efforts

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 Audubon Society.[11]

In February 2015, the Panamanian President 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.[12]


  1. ^ "Gulf of Panama mangroves". Terrestrial Ecoregions. World Wildlife Fund.
  2. ^ "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.
  3. ^ 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.
  4. ^ 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.
  5. ^ Cooke, Richard G.; Wake, Thomas A.; Martínez-Polanco, María F.; Jiménez-Acosta, Máximo; Bustamante, Fernando; Holst, Irene; Lara-Kraudy, Alexandra; Martín, Juan Guillermo; Redwood, Stewart (2016). "Exploitation of dolphins (Cetacea: Delphinidae) at a 6000 yr old Preceramic site in the Pearl Island archipelago, Panama". Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. 6: 733–756. doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2015.12.001.
  6. ^ "Panama Imports and Exports". The Observatory of Economic Compexity. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Retrieved Feb 9, 2016.
  7. ^ 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.
  8. ^ "Panama Bight Mangroves". World Wildlife Fund. Retrieved Feb 14, 2016.
  9. ^ 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 Feb. 2016
  10. ^ "Environmental Issues in Panama". Anywhere Panama. Retrieved 15 February 2016.
  11. ^ "Panama Bay Regains Limited Protected Status". National Audubon Society. April 5, 2013. Retrieved February 9, 2016.
  12. ^ Ontiveros, Roberto (Feb 10, 2015). "Environmental Issues: Panamanian President Juan Carlos Varela Protects Wetlands Outside Panama City From Construction". Retrieved Feb 9, 2016.

Coordinates: 8°05′11″N 79°16′58″W / 8.08642°N 79.28284°W


Antón is a corregimiento in Antón District, Coclé Province, Panama. It is located near the north-western shore of the Gulf of Panama. It is the seat of Antón District. It has a land area of 106.3 square kilometres (41.0 sq mi) and had a population of 9,790 as of 2010, giving it a population density of 92.1 inhabitants per square kilometre (239/sq mi). Its population as of 1990 was 7,220; its population as of 2000 was 8,360.

Azuero Peninsula

Azuero Peninsula (Spanish: Península de Azuero) is a large peninsula in southern Panama. It is surrounded by the Pacific Ocean in the south; the Pacific and Gulf of Montijo to the west, and by the Gulf of Panama in the east. The peninsula is effectively divided into two regions; the Western Azuero and the Eastern Azuero, as no serviceable roads join the two peninsula regions past the Pan-American Highway.

The Eastern Azuero Peninsula is known for baseball and is also a center of activity during the annual carnaval (carnival), with Las Tablas being the hub. Pedasi is a small fishing town with sport fishing.

The Western Azuero Peninsula is known for its cattle ranching, farming, fishing, sunsets and beaches.

Tourism has begun to increase in the area both for the aforementioned sport fishing, surfing and for the local charm of cities like Chitré, Las Tablas and Pedasi. Due to a rise in tourism, real estate development has begun. The area enjoys some of the best weather in Panama being in a region known as the "Arco Seco" (dry arc).

Balboa District

Balboa District is an island district (distrito) of Panamá Province in Panama, covering the offshore Pearl Islands lying in the Gulf of Panama southeast of Panama City. The population according to the 2000 census was 2,336; the latest official estimate (for 2019) is 3,332. The district covers a total area of 333 km². The capital lies at the town of San Miguel.

Bay of San Miguel

The Bay of San Miguel (Spanish: Golfo de San Miguel) is a bay of the Gulf of Panama, located on the Pacific coast of Darién Province in eastern Panama.

The bay is located at 8.3194444°N 78.3086111°W / 8.3194444; -78.3086111.

It is fed by the Tuira River. At its southern end is Cape Garachiné (also known as Point Garachina), and at its northern end is Punta San Lorenzo (a.k.a. Cape Gardo).

Chagres River

The Chagres River (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈtʃaɣɾes]), in central Panama, is the largest river in the Panama Canal's watershed. The river is dammed twice, and the resulting reservoirs—Gatun Lake and Lake Alajuela—form an integral part of the canal and its water system. Although the river's natural course runs northwest to its mouth at the Caribbean Sea, its waters also flow, via the canal's locks, into the Gulf of Panama to the south. The Chagres has the unusual claim of drainage into two oceans.

Chame Airport

Chame Airport (LID: MP24) is an airport serving Chame District, a district in the Panamá Oeste Province of Panama.

The airport is 4 kilometres (2.5 mi) inland from the Gulf of Panama. There is distant rising terrain to the north.

The Taboga Island non-directional beacon (Ident: TBG) and VOR-DME (Ident: TBG) are 22.9 nautical miles (42.4 km) east-northeast of the airport.

Chilean transport Rímac (1872)

Rímac was a steamer involved in decisive actions of the War of the Pacific (1879–1884) and Thousand Days' War (1899–1902).

After construction of the ship in the United Kingdom in 1872, she was purchased by the Compañía Sudamericana de Vapores and arrived in Chile in 1874.

On 5 May 1874 the Chilean government issued a subvention program under which Chilean enterprises supplied Navy with materiel, called "Convenio de subvención." At the beginning of the war and under this agreement Rímac was handed over to the Chilean Navy, together with the ships Loa and Itata.In May 1879 she towed Covadonga to Antofagasta after the Battle of Punta Gruesa.In June 1879 the Peruvian ironclad Huáscar captured Rímac with 260 men of a cavalry regiment, weapons and ammunition. This loss caused riots in Santiago and led to the resignation of the Minister of National Defense, Basilio Urrutia Vásquez, and the commander-in-chief of the Chilean Navy, Juan Williams Rebolledo.After the defeat of the Peruvian Army in the battles of San Juan and Miraflores, the Secretary of the Navy, Captain Manuel Villar, during the night of 16 January 1881 ordered the destruction of the port defenses and the remaining ships of the Peruvian Navy, including Rímac, to prevent their (re-)capture by the Chilean troops. The order was executed by the captains Luis Germán Astete and Manuel Villavisencio during the dawn of 17 January 1881. But few months later, in June 1881 she was refloated and auctioned off to CSAV (again) for $36,000.

During the Thousand Days' War in Colombia, Rímac, then renamed Lautaro, was lent to the Conservative Party; she was sunk off Panama City on 20 January 1902, fighting against Admiral Padilla of the Liberal Party.

Contadora Island

Isla Contadora (or Contadora Island in English) is a Panamanian island on the Pearl Islands archipelago (Spanish: Archipielago de las Perlas) in the Gulf of Panama. It has an area of 1.39 km², which makes it the 11th largest island of the archipelago. With a population of 253 (census 2000), however, it ranks third, after Isla del Rey and Isla Taboga. A popular tourist destination, Contadora has a small regional/domestic airport (IATA code: OTD), and has regular flights to and from Panama City and the rest of the islands in the archipelago.

Gulf of Panama mangroves

The Gulf of Panama mangroves (NT1414) is an ecoregion along the Pacific coast of Panama, Colombia. The mangroves experience seasonal flooding with high levels of sediment, and occasional extreme storms or very low rainfall due to El Niño effects. They are important as a breeding or nursery area for marine species.

Areas of the mangroves have been recognized as Important Bird Areas and Ramsar wetlands.

The ecoregion has been severely degraded by clearance of mangroves for agriculture, pasturage and shrimp farming, by urban pressure around Panama City, and by pollution related to the Panama Canal.

Gulf of Parita

Gulf of Parita or Parita Bay (Spanish: Golfo de Parita, Bahía Parita) is a large gulf off the coast of Herrera Province, in Panama.

It forms the western section of the Gulf of Panama, and is located between Puerto Obaldia, Coclé and the mouth of the Rio Grande.

Isla del Rey, Panama

Isla del Rey is the largest island in the Pearl Islands in the Gulf of Panama. It has an area of 234 square kilometres (90 sq mi), and a population of 1,676 (census 2000). Its current name is probably more a reference to Christ the King than to a secular king. There are four towns, which are San Miguel (pop. 967), La Esmeralda (pop. 524), La Ensenada (pop. 94) and La Guinea (pop. 83). It is easily larger than the other Pearl Islands combined, and is the second largest island in Panama, after Coiba.

The first European to see Isla del Rey was Vasco Núñez de Balboa in October 1513 on his first expedition to the Pacific Ocean. He could only see the islands from afar, as the poor weather prevented his canoes from landing there. He named the island Isla Rica (Rich Island).

Largenose catshark

The largenose catshark (Apristurus nasutus) is a catshark of the family Scyliorhinidae. The largenose catshark is found on the upper continental slopes in the eastern Pacific, from the Gulf of Panama to Ecuador and central Chile, between 9°N and 28°S. It can grow up to 70 cm. Its reproduction is oviparous.

Parasites of the largenose catshark, studied off Chile, include Monogeneans, Cestodes, and Nematodes.

Las Tablas, Los Santos

Las Tablas (Spanish pronunciation: [las ˈta.βlas]) is the capital of the Panamanian province of Los Santos, with a population of 8,945 as of 2010. It is located a few kilometres inland from the Gulf of Panama on the Azuero Peninsula. Las Tablas is a recognised national centre of Panamanian folk: Art, music, gastronomy, architecture, culture and literature. The only Panamanian president to serve three terms, Belisario Porras, was from Las Tablas.

It is known for a lively yearly Carnival, in which the city splits into two competing factions, "Calle Arriba" (Uptown, literally "Street Above") and "Calle Abajo" (Downtown / Street Below), both centred on two streets of the same name. Each faction will have a carnival queen, a parade, fireworks, music, a decorated plaza, food stands, presentations, concerts, surveys, games, contests, etc., all attempting to overpower the other faction's efforts.

List of islands of Panama

This is a list of islands of Panama.

Panama Bay

The Panama Bay (Spanish: Bahia de Panamá) is a large body of water off the coast of southern Panama, at 8.8333333°N 79.25°W / 8.8333333; -79.25. It is a part of the greater Gulf of Panama.

Panama Bight

The Panama Bight is a marine ecoregion on the Pacific coast of the Americas.

The Panama Bight extends eastwards from the Azuero Peninsula in Panama along the coast of the Gulf of Panama and Archipelago de las Perlas. It continues south along the entire Pacific coast of Colombia to the coast of northern Ecuador. The Nicoya marine ecoregion bounds it on the north, and the Guayaquil marine ecoregion bounds it on the south.

The Panama Bight ecoregion is home to rich coral beds in the near shore waters. While coral diversity is lower here than in the Caribbean Sea on the other side of Panama, the coral cover tends to be higher. In fact, the density of coral coverage here-90 percent coverage is common-is rarely seen in the Caribbean. In addition to the coral beds, enclaves of Panama Bight mangroves can be found in the tidal zone.

Pearl Islands

The Pearl Islands (Spanish: Archipiélago de las Perlas or Islas de las Perlas) is a group of 200 or more islands and islets (many tiny and uninhabited) lying about 30 miles (48 km) off the Pacific coast of Panama in the Gulf of Panama.

Taboga Island

Taboga Island (Spanish: Isla Taboga), also known as the "Island of Flowers", is a volcanic island in the Gulf of Panama. It is a tourist destination, about 20 km from Panama City, Panama.

USS S-26 (SS-131)

USS S-26 (SS-131) was an S-class submarine of the United States Navy. Her keel was laid down on 7 November 1919 by Bethlehem Shipbuilding Corporation's Fore River Shipyard in Quincy, Massachusetts. She launched on 22 August 1922 sponsored by Mrs. Carlos Bean, and commissioned on 15 October 1923 with Lieutenant Edmund W. Burrough in command.

Operating out of New London, Connecticut from 1923 to 1925, S-26 visited St. Thomas and Trinidad from January to April 1924, and Hawaii from 27 April to 30 May 1925. Cruising from California ports, mainly Mare Island, San Diego, and San Pedro, California, S-26 visited Hawaii in the summers of 1927–1930. She also served in the Panama Canal area from March to May 1927, and in February 1929. Departing San Diego on 1 December 1930, she arrived at Pearl Harbor on 12 December. From then into 1938, S-26 served at Pearl Harbor. Sailing from there on 15 October 1938, she returned to New London on 25 March 1939. Entering a period of partial duty on 15 April that year, she resumed full duty on 1 July 1940.

Following duty at New London and hydrogen tests at Washington, DC, S-26 sailed from New London on 10 December 1941, and arrived at Coco Solo, Panama on 19 December. Accidentally rammed by the submarine chaser Sturdy at night in the Gulf of Panama, S-26 sank on 24 January 1942 with the loss of 46 men. Three men (the captain, executive officer, and a lookout) survived. Though divers were sent down to the wreck over the following days, her hull was not salvaged.

Arctic Ocean
Atlantic Ocean
Indian Ocean
Pacific Ocean
Southern Ocean
Endorheic basins


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