Located in the north-east of South America, between Suriname and Brazil, French Guiana covers 86,504 km². It is the largest region of France and can be divided into two distinct geographical areas: the wooded area (96% of the territory) and the coastal area on the Atlantic coast, where the majority of the population and economic activity are concentrated.
French Guiana coastline is almost 380 km long. It is part of a vast muddy coastal shelf that extends from the mouth of the Amazon to the mouth of the Orinoco. The originality of the Guianese coastline lies in the presence of highly mobile mud banks, 10 to 15 km wide and 1 to 3 m deep, that permanently remodel the coastal environment and are superimposed off the coast of French Guiana. The coastal fringe is essentially made up of wetlands including marshes, swamps, mangroves and mudflats.
French Guiana is home to a wealth of marine life:
– sea turtle nesting sites on the coast
– a great diversity of marine mammal species: Guiana Dolphin (Sotalia guyanensis), caribean manatee (Trichechus manatus) on the coast, Bottlenose dolphins on the shelf and divers in the open sea (sperm whales, baked whales)
– important sites for seabirds: Grand Connétable Island (only seabird breeding site between the Brazilian Nordeste and the Venezuelan Orinoco Delta)
– recently discovered underwater “Amazon reef” formations on the edge of the continental shelf.
Fewer than 150 establishments are involved in maritime activity in French Guiana, with just under 300 employees. Activities linked to the management of port infrastructures account for almost 40% of jobs linked to the maritime economy. Maritime transport companies, both freight and passenger, are few in number and provide few jobs (5%). Fishing represents the primary sector’s main export item in French Guiana and nearly a third of total export earnings from goods (excluding space activities).