Somalia’s 3,333 km coastline is the longest in Africa and is characterized by a diversity of ecosystems and an abundance of natural resources. Ecologically, the coast is split into two distinct zones – the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean coastline. The offshore Somali coastal area is one of the most productive marine ecosystems in the world. These ecosystems include mangrove swamps, estuaries, rocky shores, coastal wetlands and coral reefs. Somalia has one of the most important large marine ecosystems in the Indian Ocean, known as the Somali Current Large Marine Ecosystem.

The coast of Somalia has fringing coral reefs in the Bajuni Archipelago and patches of coral reefs along the Gulf of Aden coastline. Coral communities are well developed consisting of 27 genera and 63 species.

Small cetaceans are abundant in the waters off Somalia. In a survey by Schleyer and Baldwin in 1999, large schools of delphinids were recorded. Common dolphins,, spinner dolphin, , spotted dolphin, , humpback dolphin, and bottlenose dolphin, were all recorded. Turtle species have been recorded in Somali waters, namely loggerhead, hawksbill, olive ridley and leatherback. Green turtles have traditionally been recorded to nest along Somalia’s east coast. Additionally, there are ten endemic bird species in Somalia.

Somalia has six mangrove species. Most of the mangroves in Somalia are found along the southwest coast although isolated pockets of Avicennia marina grow on the northern coast behind sand spits and along the Gulf of Aden.

In 2007, mangroves in Somalia occupied an area of about 1 000 ha[1], mainly in the Juba/Shebele estuary, along the creeks of Istambul, Kudha and Burgavo, and on the sheltered side of the barrier islands.

Seagrass beds in Somalia are limited to an extensive area along the southern coast from Adale to Ras Chiamboni and few beds along the North coast. Seven species of seagrasses have been identified in Somalia, with T. ciliatum being abundant in most areas

[1] FAO (2007). The world’s mangroves 1980-2005. A thematic study prepared in the framework of the Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005 FAO. Rome