Using time series analyses, some physical parameters of the continental shelf waters of the Gulf of Guinea
were examined. Analysis of coastal sea surface temperatures from Ghana and Ivory Coast, and offshore sea surface temperatures from the Gulf of Guinea clearly shows spatial and inter-annual patterns of cooling in coastal waters ofWest Africa. The behaviour of the decomposed trend of coastal and offshore sea surface temperatures, sub-surface temperature measured at 100 m depth off Ghana and salinity showed that the observational period (1963–1992) could be divided into three climatic periods: the period before 1972, from 1972 to 1982, and the period after 1982. In the first period, sea surface temperature at both coastal and offshore areas and bottom temperature declined and coastal salinity was relatively low. The second period was a cold one with less than average sea surface and sea bottom temperatures. The mixed layer was narrow with the thermocline remaining shallower than its long-term average position. Coastal and bottom salinity (measured at the 100 m depth) were relatively high but the seasonal variation was minimal. This period of significant change in the physical components of the ecosystem of the Ghanaian shelf waters has hitherto not been documented in the literature. In the final phase, temperatures were high, and salinity was low and erratic. The observed localised environmental changes are consistent with global changes in the Gulf of Guinea and possibly in the tropical Atlantic basin. There is a remarkable synchrony between the climatic periods identified in this paper and the events that have occurred in the round sardinella (Sardinella aurita) and triggerfish (Balistes capriscus) fisheries in continental shelf waters of the western Gulf of Guinea.