Rapid and largely unchecked coastal development in the Gulf countries as a result of the oil boom has caused considerable ecological stress in the Gulf ecosystem. Coastal habitats have begun to show symptoms of ecological imbalance generally associated with multiple stressors caused by pollution and habitat destruction: harmful algal blooms and fish kills are of common occurrence in coastal areas, fish stocks are declining, and coastal sediments are contaminated by a variety of toxic chemicals. The present state of the Gulf ecosystem reflects the constraints inherently associated with fragmented jurisdictions in the management of coastal areas at both national and regional levels. Its management is largely driven by management frameworks representing arbitrary jurisdictions of political units rather than a shared vision of the health and sustainability of the entire Gulf ecosystem. In view of the complex, dynamic, and semi-enclosed nature of the Gulf ecosystem, a paradigm shift from resource management characterized by short-term perspectives on small spatial scales to resource management that is ecosystem-based with long-term perspectives, is urgently needed.
Since an ecosystem-based management of the Gulf is implicit in the provisions of Kuwait Convention and Kuwait Action Plan, we recommend that ROPME (Regional Organization for the Protection of the Marine Environment), which provides the focal point for regional cooperation under these regional agreements, be provided with a renewed mandate to coordinate an ecosystem-based management of the Gulf.