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Walvis Bay Ramsar Site, Wetland of International Importance

Walvis Bay, Namibia

MARINE PROTECTED AREA

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Description

Walvis Bay (Afrikaans Walvisbaai, German Walfischbucht or Walfischbai, all meaning "Whale Bay") is a city in Namibia and the name of the bay on which it lies. The town has 85,000 inhabitants and owns 29 square kilometres (11 sq mi) of land.

The bay has been a haven for sea vessels because of its natural deepwater harbour, protected by the Pelican Point sand spit, being the only natural harbour of any size along the country's coast. Being rich in plankton and marine life, these waters also drew large numbers of whales, attracting whalers and fishing vessels. The Dutch referred to it as Walvisch Baye and the English as Whale Bay. In its eventual proclamation, it came to be called Walfish Bay, then Walvish Bay, and ultimately Walvis Bay. It has also been referred to as Walwich Bay or Walwisch Bay.

A succession of colonists developed the location and resources of this strategic harbour settlement. The harbour's value in relation to the sea route around the Cape of Good Hope had caught the attention of world powers since it was discovered. This explains the complicated political status of Walvis Bay down the years.

The town is situated just north of the Tropic of Capricorn in the Kuiseb River delta and lies at the end of the TransNamib Railway to Windhoek, and on the B2 road.

Walvis Bay, with its large bay and sand dunes, is the tourism activity centre of Namibia. Other attractions include the artificial Bird Island, centre of a guano collection industry, the Dune 7 sand dune, salt works, birdlife and a museum. Kuisebmund Stadium, home to two clubs in the Namibia Premier League, is also located in the city and the beach resort of Langstrand lies just a few kilometres north. The Walvis Bay Export Processing Zone is an important facet of the local economy.

The Portuguese navigator Diogo Cão reached Cape Cross, north of the bay, in 1485. There followed Bartolomeu Dias, who anchored his flagship São Cristóvão in what is now Walvis Bay on 8 December 1487, on his expedition to discover a sea route to the East via the Cape of Good Hope. He named the bay "O Golfo de Santa Maria da Conceição." However, the Portuguese did not formally stake a claim to Walvis Bay.

The Herero called the place Ezorongondo. Little commercial development occurred on the site until the late 19th century. During the scramble for Africa, the United Kingdom occupied Walvis Bay and a small area surrounding the territory, and permitted the Cape Colony to annex it in 1878, both to forestall German ambitions in the region and to ensure safe passage of British ships around the Cape (Walvis Bay was the only known natural harbour on the Namibian coast). The Cape government, correctly predicting a German invasion of the region and desiring protection for its Griqualand diamond fields, originally requested permission to incorporate the whole of South West Africa, but this was blocked by Britain. Consequently when the Germans later colonised the region, only Walvis Bay remained as an enclave out of its control. In 1910, Walvis Bay, as well as the Cape Colony, became part of the newly formed Union of South Africa. Subsequently, a dispute arose with Germany over the enclave's boundaries. This was eventually settled in 1911 and Walvis Bay was allocated an area of 434 square miles (1,124 km2).

The enclave was overrun by the Germans during the South-West Africa Campaign early in World War I. But South African Forces eventually ousted the Germans in 1915 and Walvis Bay was quickly integrated into the new martial law regime established in South-West Africa. South Africa was later awarded control (a "C" class mandate) over South-West Africa by the League of Nations to administer SWA as an integral part of South Africa. Civilian rule was restored in South-West Africa in 1921 and administration of Walvis Bay was transferred to SWA by Act of the South African parliament in 1922.

In 1971, anticipating an imminent ceding of its control over South-West Africa, South Africa transferred control of Walvis Bay back to its Cape Province, thus making it an exclave. In 1977, in an attempt to avoid losing control of Walvis Bay to a possibly hostile SWAPO-led government, the South African government reimposed direct rule and reasserted its claim of sovereignty based on the original annexation. In 1978, the United Nations Security Council provided for bilateral negotiations between South Africa and a future Namibia to resolve the political status of Walvis Bay.

In 1990 South-West Africa gained independence as Namibia, but Walvis Bay remained under South African sovereignty. At midnight on 28 February 1994 South Africa formally transferred sovereignty over Walvis Bay and the Penguin Islands to Namibia.[citation needed]

Walvis Bay has a number of public (government-run) and private schools, among them Duinesig Primary School, De Duine Secondary School, International School of Walvis Bay, Kuisebmond Secondary School, Walvis Bay Private High School and others. A number of kindergartens cater for young children.

The Namibian Maritime and Fisheries Institute (NAMFI) is a tertiary education institution based in town.International University of Management (IUM) and Monitronics Success College both have branches in Walvis Bay.

In Walvis Bay there are different fishing companies like Hangana Seafood,Caroline Fishing, Benguella Fishing Company, Etale Fishing Company, Cadilu Fishing, Etosha Fisheries, Kuiseb Fishing Enterprises, Blue Ocean Products, Benguella Sea Products, Consortium Fisheries, Talanam Fish Processor. These companies catch different types of fish like snoek, horse mackerel, anchovy, steenbras, kabeljou, kingklip, hake, catfish, tuna, and sardines. Hangana Seafood are processors and exporters of fish and fish products.

Walvis Bay contains open spaces, scenic beauty and unique marine and plant life. It is well suited for the outdoor lifestyle, boasting sports such as sandboarding, kiting, surfing, swimming, angling, sailing, golf and other indoor and outdoor sport codes. There is Walvis Bay Lagoon and Aquatic Activities, Kuiseb River Delta and the beach itself where people enjoy swimming and catching fish.

The 2 km sand spit allows the adjacent water to remain smooth in very strong winds, ideal for record attempting vessels like Vestas Sailrocket

It is home to Eleven Arrows F.C. and Blue Waters F.C., local football clubs that compete in the Namibia Premier League.

Walvis Bay features the very rare mild variation of the arid climate (BWn, according to the Köppen climate classification). Walvis Bay receives an average of less than 10 mm of precipitation per year, making it one of the driest cities on the planet. Despite the fact that it has an arid climate, Walvis Bay seldom gets very hot or very cold, an extremely unusual feature for a city featuring this climate. This is primarily due to cold offshore currents near Walvis Bay.

Walvis Bay has twinning agreements with Lobatse in Botswana and with Drakenstein in South Africa since 2011.

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Official Record

  • WDPA ID95353
  • NameWalvis Bay
  • Original NameWalvis Bay
  • Country / TerritoryNAM
  • Sub locationNA-ER
  • IUCN CategoryNot ApplicableWhat is this?
  • English DesignationRamsar Site, Wetland of International Importance
  • Designation TypeInternational
  • StatusDesignated
  • Status Year1995
  • Reported Area km2126.0
  • Marinetrue
  • Reported Marine Area km2Unknown
  • No TakeNot Reported
  • No Take Area km20.0
  • Governance TypeNot Reported
  • International CriteriaNot Reported
  • Management AuthorityNot Reported
  • Management Plan URLNot Reported

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Ramsar Secretariat (2011)

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  • Iucn_red_white_small Logogbif

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