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The Gulf of Aden
Wilson, S.C.; Klaus, R. (2000). The Gulf of Aden, in: Sheppard, C.R.C. (Ed.) Seas at the millennium: an environmental evaluation: 2. Regional chapters: The Indian Ocean to The Pacific. pp. 47-61
In: Sheppard, C.R.C. (Ed.) (2000). Seas at the millennium: an environmental evaluation: 2. Regional chapters: The Indian Ocean to The Pacific. Pergamon: Amsterdam. ISBN 0-08-043207-7. XXI, 920 pp., more

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Document type: Review


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  • Wilson, S.C.
  • Klaus, R.

    The Gulf of Aden lies between southern Arabia and the Horn of Africa and connects with the Red Sea and Indian Ocean. The Socotra Archipelago lies at its entrance, off the Horn of Africa. The largest influence comes from the reversing monsoon system with strong and persistent winds that blow from the southwest in summer, and from the northeast in winter. These also cause a reversal in the direction of surface currents. Associated with the summer monsoon are upwelling areas along the eastern coast of Yemen, and one centred on the Somali coast southwest of Socotra. Both have a profound effect on coastal habitats and stimulate high marine productivity which supports a rich fishery. Marine biodiversity is relatively high since the area is a transition zone between the Red Sea, Southern Arabia and East Africa. Terrestrial diversity, particularly in the flora of Socotra, is also elevated by high levels of endemism. Coasts are mainly exposed sandy beaches separated by rocky headlands. Coral communities and reefs have developed most notably in Djibouti and offshore islands of Somalia. Seagrasses are relatively uncommon, and mangrove stands are most abundant to the west and southwest. A striking feature of rocky shores is the abundant macroalgae that appears following the onset of the Southwest Monsoon in particular. Green turtles nest in tens of thousands, and thousands of dolphins have also recently been observed. Perhaps the most serious single threat to sustainable use of marine resources comes from overfishing, particularly by industrial fleets that operate with or without licences. Some stocks have collapsed or are showing signs of strain, including cuttlefish, shark and lobster. Wildlife species are also harvested and incidental mortality appears high. Levels of pollution are low except around larger towns where sewage and solid wastes are starting to affect resources. Chronic oil pollution originating from tankers is also cause for concern, but levels appear to be low. Harsh environmental conditions and lack of infrastructure limits exploitation of coastal resources and traditional methods of limiting exploitation are still effective. Political instability and unrest, and lack of funding have hampered coastal management, though a strategic action plan for the conservation and protection of the marine environment has recently been prepared by PERSGA as a crucial first step. There are only two small marine parks in the region, both in Djibouti.

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