The 10 Largest Ocean Banks In The World

Fishing village along the Newfoundland coast, near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Editorial credit: Claude Huot /
Fishing village along the Newfoundland coast, near the Grand Banks of Newfoundland. Editorial credit: Claude Huot /

A part of the ocean like a shoal or the waters above an underwater hill that is shallower than the surrounding area is referred to as an ocean bank. Such areas are often associated with nutrient-rich currents and hence serve as ideal fishing grounds. Thus, they are also known as fishing banks. Here are the descriptions of some of the world’s largest ocean banks:

1. Grand Banks of Newfoundland

The biggest ocean bank encompasses an area of 280,000 square km on the North American continental shelf. The depth of the water here is lesser than that of the surrounding area and ranges between 50 and 300 ft due to the presence of underwater plateaus that make up the bank. This ocean bank is located to the southeast of Newfoundland in Canada. The waters here are rich in nutrients due to the mixing of the two ocean currents of the Gulf Stream and the Labrador Current. Thus, a variety of fish species thrive here and it serves as one of the world’s biggest and most profitable fishing grounds. Besides fish, the waters of the Grand Banks of Newfoundland are also rich in other aquatic life like whales, dolphins, and seals. The RMS Titanic also sank in an area close to this ocean bank.

2. Agulhas Bank

One of South Africa’s best fishing grounds, the Agulhas Bank is located to the south of Cape Agulhas and is part of the African continental shelf. The ocean bank stretches for a distance of about 250 km and then steeply dips down to the abyssal plain. The nutrient-rich waters here are a result of the meeting of the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean currents. The waters of the Agulhas Bank are also highly treacherous and shipwrecks are quite common here.

3. Great Bahama Bank

The Great Bahama Bank occupies an area of 95,798.12 square km off the Bahamas. The highest depth of the waters above the large submerged shoal is only about 80 ft. The Great Bahama Bank is characterized by shallow waters with diverse and abundant marine life. The area is also a famous fishing ground since it hosts different types of fish. The edges of the bank steeply drop to precipitous depths.

4. Saya de Malha Bank

Located to the northeast of the African island country of Madagascar, the Saya de Malha Bank occupies an area of 35,000 square km and is part of the Mascarene Plateau, a submarine feature in the Indian Ocean. The nearest land is a tiny island named Agaléga that is 300 km away. The ocean bank comprises of two parts, the North Bank and the South Bank with the latter being significantly larger than the first. Several million years back, the South Bank was connected to the Great Chagos Bank before tectonic activities leading to the opening of a ridge separated the two. The waters in the shallowest part of the bank have a depth of only about 23 ft. The area serves as a breeding ground for blue whales and humpback whales.

5. Seychelles Bank

The Seychelles Bank encompasses an area of 31,000 square km in the Indian Ocean. The bank is also a part of the submarine Mascarene Plateau and the waters in the area are quite shallow with depths ranging from 30 to 490 ft. The edges of the bank plunge down to great depths of about 13,000 ft.

6. Georges Bank

The Georges Bank refers to the elevated seafloor and shallow waters extending across an area of 28,800 square km between Cape Cod in the US and Cape Sable Island in Canada. The Georges Bank lies between the Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Maine. Although the Georges Bank is less productive for the fishing industry than some other ocean banks in the North Atlantic, it is one of the most accessible fishing banks in the region. Hence, fishing activities here support the economy of many coastal settlements near the bank.

7. Lansdowne Bank

The Lansdowne Bank is located in the Coral Sea between the Chesterfield Islands and the New Caledonia island. The bank extends for an area of 21,000 square km. The depths of the waters here range from 197 to 262 ft. The bank is associated with the Sandy Island mystery whereby reports of the existence of an island in the northern part of the bank exists but the island has not been sighted by anyone until now.

8. Dogger Bank

Located off the coast of England, the Dogger Bank refers to a sandbank in the North Sea where waters are about 66 ft shallower than the surrounding area. The area of the ocean bank is 17,600 square km. The depth of the water here ranges from 49 to 118 ft. It is well known for productive fisheries. Dredging activities in the Dogger Bank area have yielded valuable paleontological and archeological artifacts that bear witness to the existence of terrestrial life here when the sea levels were low and the bank was part of Doggerland, a large landmass. The Dogger Bank also bears witness to several naval battles throughout history.

9. Little Bahama Bank

The Little Bahama Bank is, unlike its name, quite an expansive area off the Bahamas. The area encompassed is 14,260.64 square km. The waters here are very shallow but the slopes at the edges are very steep. The area has a thriving fishing industry.

10. Great Chagos Bank

With an area of 12,642 square km, the Great Chagos Bank is the 10th largest ocean bank in the world and is located in the Chagos Archipelago. This ocean bank is about 500 km off the Maldives. Although it is the largest atoll in the world, most of it is submerged by the sea and hence the waters here are quite shallow. The bank also features several small islands and the entire area of the bank above the surface of the water is part of a nature reserve.

The 10 Largest Ocean Banks In The World

RankName of the ocean bankArea occupied
1Grand Banks of Newfoundland280,000 km²
2Agulhas Bank116,000 km²
3Great Bahama Bank95,798.12 km²
4Saya de Malha35,000 km²
5Seychelles Bank31,000 km²
6Georges Bank28,800 km²
7Lansdowne Bank21,000 km²
8Dogger Bank17,600 km²
9Little Bahama Bank14,260.64 km²
10Great Chagos Bank12,642 km²
11Reed Bank, Spratly Islands8,866 km²
12Caicos Bank7,680 km²
13Macclesfield Bank6,448 km²
14North Bank or Ritchie Bank5,800 km²
15Cay Sal Bank5,226.73 km²

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