This paper summarizes the results of a study, which was conducted during the period of 1996-2005. It assesses the impact of river diversion (Third River), marsh drainage, and marsh restoration on Kuwait's marine environment. The results indicated lower salinity, higher nitrate concentration, higher chlorophyll-a, and higher sedimentation in the northern waters of Kuwait influenced by the discharge of the man-made Third River and marsh drainage. Five estuarine copepod species, which occur only in the northern waters of Kuwait due to their proximity to the mouth of the river, are reported here for the first time. Lower turbidity levels were observed in the northern waters of Kuwait during 2004 and 2005 possibly influenced by the marsh restoration process. The above results indicate the close interrelationship between the upstream river environment and the northern Arabian Gulf. River-related activities in the Tigris-Euphrates Basin have transboundary impacts downstream. Assumptions on the potential effects of the upstream damming of the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers on Kuwait's marine environment are included. It is expected that recent and planned river basin modifications in Turkey, Iran and Iraq will significantly reduce river discharge, permanently remove seasonal flooding, and impact the northern Gulf's marine environment, with serious implications for fisheries.

Introduction

The Arabian Gulf is a semi-enclosed marginal sea, with a mean depth of 35 meters and a total volume of 8,630 km3. Evaporation in the Gulf exceeds both river inflow and precipitation, resulting in elevated salinity (> 40 psu) conditions compared to the Gulf Of Oman waters (∼ 37 psu). Rainfall is scant in the arid climate (mean = 7 cm yr−1), and estimates of evaporation vary from 500 to 144 cm yr− 1 (Reynolds, 1993). The main source of freshwater into the Arabian Gulf is from the Shatt al-Arab River (former mean flow = 1,456 m3s− 1), which is formed by the confluence of Euphrates, Tigris and Karun Rivers (Fig. 1). The Shatt al-Arab and its associated Mesopotamian marshes play a very important role in the sustenance of the northern Gulf, and is probably the dominating component of the region's production of economically important shrimp and finfish fisheries.

As recently as the 1980s, the marshes were intact, but in 1989, a plan to drain the marshes was initiated (Ghadiri and Ghadiri, 2005). By 2000, Iraq had drained 90% of its extensive world-class marshes (Lawler, 2005). Prior to the destruction of the marshes, Iraq had completed in December 1992 the construction of a man-made river, called the Third River, by diverting water from the Euphrates River to the Shatt Al-Basra Channel (Fig. 1).

Originating in the mountains of Turkey, the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers drain 915,000 km2 from 5 countries: Turkey, Iraq, Syria, Iran, and to a much lesser degree, Saudi Arabia (Maltby, 1994). Turkey is presently implementing the Southeast Anatolian Project (GAP), a massive scheme to capture much of the river flow of the Tigris and Euphrates for agricultural irrigation and hydroelectric power generation. In total, 22 dams, 19 of which will generate electricity, will impound 122 × 109 m3 of water covering 3,000 km2 (Maltby, 1994). GAP completion is scheduled for the year 2010 (Kolars, 1992; Kolars and Mitchell, 1991), although others believe it will not be completed until 2020 (Aksoy et al., 1995).

The objective of this paper is to describe the impacts of the river-related activities on Kuwait's marine environment during the period of 1996–2005. It covers the marsh drainage period (ended in 2003), the influence of the Third River (started flowing into the Gulf in 1993), and the effect of marsh restoration on Kuwait's northern waters (started in April 2003). Potential impacts of the GAP project on the northern Gulf ecosystem are also discussed.

Methodology

Kuwait's waters were sampled during 1996-2005 by Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR). In-situ measurements of salinity and turbidity were obtained by a data logger (CTD/SeaBird Electronics). Water samples were collected by Niskin bottle during the above period to measure chlorophyll-a (size fractionation of 5 μ m and 50 μ m), identify phytoplankton bloom species, and measure nitrates and phosphates at four selected stations: Station A in Khor Al-Sabiya; Station 3 southeast of Failaka Island; Station 6 at the entrance of Kuwait Bay, and the offshore southern Station 18 (Fig. 2). The northernmost Station A, serves as an indicator for the changes occurring in the marsh area and the magnitude of the Third River discharge. Station 3 is a northern offshore station, and Station 6 is a northern inshore station. Station 18 is a southern offshore station, which provides a reference indicative of the extent of river discharge in Kuwait's waters.

Analysis for the above variables followed the MOOPAM protocol (ROPME, 1999). Chlorophyll analysis was conducted by Turner fluorometer, and nutrient analysis was conducted by Scalar autoanalyzer. Phytoplankton samples were preserved in Lugol preservative. Examination of the phytoplankton species was carried out under a Zeiss inverted microscope. Zooplankton samples were collected by an oblique tow using plankton net of 110 μm mesh equipped with a flowmeter, to evaluate changes in the copepod species composition. Zooplankton samples were preserved in 4% buffered formalin, and samples were examined under a stereomicroscope. Emphasis was placed on copepods, which are the most abundant zooplankton group in Kuwait's waters (Al-Yamani and Prusova, 2003).

In general, the following variables and trends were chosen to indicate impacts of river-related activities on Kuwait's marine environment:

  • For impact of river diversion: decrease in the salinity, increase in the nutrients of Kuwait's waters, increase in phytoplankton biomass, increase in monospecific blooms, and presence of estuarine copepod species.

  • For impact of marsh drainage: increase in the turbidity of Kuwait's waters leading to reduced light penetration.

  • Impact of marsh restoration on Kuwait's waters: decrease in turbidity.

  • Impact of the GAP project: reduced flow, leading to higher salinity; changes in seasonal flow pattern; jellyfish invasion.

Kruskal Wallis (K-W) analysis was used to compare values of salinity, turbidity, nitrates, phosphates, and chlorophyll-a and to test if there were significant inter-annual, monthly, or station to station differences for the above five variables.

To assess the effects of reduced river flow on fisheries, we used fisheries data from Kuwait's Central Statistical Office (CSO) from 1995 through 2004 (CSO, 1995–2004). Shrimp landings' data were compiled by KISR staff.

Results

Physicochemical characterization of Kuwait's waters during 1996-2005

Salinity (parts per thousand = practical salinity units = psu), turbidity (nephelometric turbidity units = NTU), nutrients (μ g-atom l− 1 = μ mol l− 1 = μ M l− 1) and phytoplankton biomass (mg m−3 = μ g l− 1) vary spatially in Kuwait's waters (Table 1 and Table 2). The northern waters of Kuwait have lower salinity, higher turbidity, higher nutrients, and higher phytoplankton biomass compared to the southern and offshore waters.

In general, there is significant year-to-year variability in the salinity, turbidity, nutrients and phytoplankton biomass of Kuwait's waters (Table 2, Fig. 3). A wide interannual range (∼ 16.5 psu) exists between minimum mean salinity (24.1 psu in 1996) and maximum mean salinity (40.6 psu in 2000) records in Khor Al-Sabiya (Table 1). Higher salinities were recorded for Kuwait's northern waters during 1999–2001 (Fig. 3). The two years 2000 and 2001 had the highest salinities, the lowest turbidity and the highest chlorophyll-a records for station A (Fig. 3). However, very high salinity values were recorded at station A in September (44.5 psu), October (44.9 psu) and November 2001 (44.2 psu). The highest salinities were also reported for the rest of Kuwait's waters during the above two years (Fig. 3). On the other hand, the lowest salinity values were recorded for all Kuwait's waters during 1996-1998, when salinities for all stations averaged < 39 psu, while salinity for station A was < 30 psu with a minimum value of 18.2 psu in 1996. The period of 1996–1998 also displayed high nitrate levels for all stations. Low salinities were also recorded for Kuwait's northern waters during 2002–2005 (Fig. 3).

In general, there were significant seasonal differences in salinity, nitrate and phosphate levels and phytoplankton biomass for Kuwait's waters (Table 2, Fig. 4). Lower salinities were recoded during winter and spring for all stations, with the lowest values occurring at station A.

Impacts of River Diversion and Marsh Drainage

Salinity and nutrients were chosen to assess the influence of the Third River discharge on Kuwait's waters, and turbidity was chosen to assess the impact of marsh drainage. The period before 1993 was considered the pre-Third River period. A synopsis of the results of the present study are presented below:

–Mean salinity at Khor Al-Sabiya during 1996–1998 was a low of 25.5 psu.

–High nutrient levels were recorded in Khor Al-Sabiya waters (Fig. 3), especially for nitrates (mean of 12.1 μ M l−1), which appear to be influenced by agricultural drainage water. The highest concentration of nitrate was recorded in 1996 (23.4 μ M l−1) when minimum mean salinity (24.1 psu) was recorded for that year.

–Mean turbidity in the waters of Khor Al-Sabiya was more than 10-fold higher than the rest of Kuwait's waters during 1997–2003. The mean turbidity level for Sabiya waters during the above period was 152.8 NTU.

–Smaller size phytoplankton (< 50 μ m) were observed in the turbid waters of Khor Al-Sabiya.

–Several phytoplankton blooms were observed in Kuwait's waters during the study period, which included toxic and nontoxic blooms. Species responsible for these blooms are: Trichodesmium erythraeum, Heterosigma akashiwo, Pseudo-nitzschia multiseries, Karenia selliformis, Noctiluca scintillans, Prorocentrum rhathymum, Phaeocystis sp., Cylindrotheca closterium and Dunaliella salina, among others.

–Five estuarine copepods (Acartia (Acartiella) faoensis, Bestiolina arabica, Bestiolina similis, Pseudodiaptomus ardjuna, Pseudodiaptomus arabicus) occur only in the northern waters of Kuwait when salinity is < 36 psu. The distribution of these five calanoids, which are reported for the first time from Kuwait's waters, is limited to the northern waters of Kuwait, and especially off Bubiyan Island.

Impact of Marsh Restoration

Turbidity was chosen as an indicator for the impact of marsh restoration on Kuwait's northern waters during 2004 and 2005. The results of this study indicate that the average turbidity levels in Khor Al-Sabiya for 2004 and 2005 (mean of 72.5 NTU) was lower compared to the marsh restoration period of 1997–2003 (mean of 152.8 NTU).

Discussion

Physicochemical Characterization of Kuwait's waters

The reason for the differences in salinity between northern and southern waters of Kuwait is the proximity of the northern waters to freshwater discharges from Shatt Al-Arab River and Shatt Al-Basra Channel. The waters of the Shatt Al-Arab (salinity < 2.5 psu) are rich in nutrients (Talling, 1980); they contain 26.1–52.4 μ M l− 1 of nitrate and 0.2–0.7 μ M l− 1 of phosphates (Abaychi et al., 1988), with an average suspended matter load of 125 mg l− 1 (Hartmann et al., 1971). Unfortunately, recent measurements of water quality parameters for Shatt Al-Basra waters are not available.

There are two major man-made channels which are currently diverting water and discharging into the Arabian Gulf through Shatt Al-Basra Channel: the Main Outfall Drain (Third River) and the Mother of Battles River (MOB). The Third River carries agricultural drainage water, while the MOB is discharging Euphrates River water into the Gulf. Therefore, water quality of Kuwait's waters is affected by the discharges from the above two man-made sources.

The interannual variability in salinity of Kuwait's waters is affected by rainfall and snowmelt upstream and hence, by river discharge volume during wet and dry years. Turkes (1996) noted that rainfall in the Turkish region was characterized by two major wet periods, 1940–1948 and 1962–1970, and two major dry periods, 1971–1974 and 1989–1993, with severe and widespread droughts occurring in 1973, 1984, 1989 and 1990. The variability in the annual discharge volumes of the Tigris–Euphrates river system was reported to be about six-fold during the period 1929–1972, before large-scale damming occurred (Cullen and deMenocal, 2000).

The higher salinities, which were recorded for Kuwait's northern waters during 1999–2001, and the lower salinity values which were accompanied with higher nitrate levels, during 1996–1998 are a reflection of the weather conditions in the upstream countries and river flow regimes. Therefore, higher salinity of Kuwait's northern waters is a sign of lower freshwater discharge into the northern Gulf, and lower salinity and elevated nutrient levels in Kuwait's waters point to higher discharge volumes and more nutrient input.

Turkey experienced drought years during 1999–2001, which reduced water supplies for irrigation, drastically cutting output for Iraq and Syria for the above years (USDA, 2003; UNEP, 2004). The sensitivity of river discharge to climate change is of significance to the Middle East region (Smith et al., 2001). Turkey also experienced good rainfall during 2003–2004 (UNEP, 2004). In March 2005, heavy rainfall was recorded in southern Iraq causing flooding of the Tigris River (Flood Archive, 2005). Hence, natural climate variability affects water supply to the Mesopotamian region and consequently to the northern Gulf waters.

The lower salinities encountered in Kuwait's waters during winter and spring seasons correspond very well with the peak flow periods of the Tigris/Euphrates Rivers, which have two flood periods. November to March constitutes the first rise due to surface runoff from rainfall, and the second rise, during April and May, is a result of snowmelt (Cullen and deMenocal, 2000). Unfortunately, discharge records for Shatt Al-Arab River have not been made available for the scientific community for the past three decades. Discharge volume and water quality measurements from Shatt Al-Basra/Khor Al-Zubair are also not available. It is important to account for inter-annual and seasonal variability in river flow since these influence the quality of the northern Gulf waters as well as fish and shrimp recruitment in the nursery grounds.

Impacts of River Diversion and Marsh Drainage

Several publications provide an overview of the past and current development activities in the Euphrates-Tigris Basin, and discuss the changes in riverine input and loss of wetlands and their ecological implications on the northern Gulf marine environment (UNEP, 2001; Al-Yamani and Khan, 2002). Al-Yamani and Khan (2002) summarized the impacts of river diversion (The Third River) and draining of the marshes on the salinity, nutrients, sedimentation rates, and biotic communities of the northern Gulf. The present study supports the findings of the above study.

There was a significant decrease in mean salinity at Khor Al-Sabiya from 36.6 psu during 1981–82 (Dames and Moore, 1983) to 25.5 psu during 1996–1998. This drastic drop in salinity is probably attributed to high discharge rates of the Third River into the northern Gulf. Kuwait's waters were influenced by higher flow rates from the Third River following the year 1992.

Higher turbidity levels were encountered in Kuwait's northern waters during the marsh drainage period which ended in 2003. Only winter turbidity values are available for 1979/80 for the pre drainage period (before 1992). The mean turbidity value for December 1979 and January 1980 was 72 NTU (Jacob et al., 1981), compared to the higher mean turbidity record (232.5 NTU) obtained during December 1996 and January 1997. Moreover, Al-Ghadban et al. (1999) reported an increase in sedimentation rate in the northern Gulf waters possibly attributed to the extensive draining of the marshes. Marsh vegetation, mostly the reed Phragmites australias and other aquatic plants served as a natural filter for waste and other pollutants in the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and caused suspended silt to settle out (Mohammad, 1965) before river water is discharged into the Gulf. The marshes also served as nursery grounds for shrimp and fish (Maltby, 1994).

There has been an increase in the frequency of occurrence of monospecific blooms in Kuwait's waters since 1995. Sporadic microalgal blooms (some of which are potentially harmful) are becoming a common occurrence.

The estuarine copepod species [Acartia (Acartiella) faoensis], could serve as a bioindicator for the magnitude of river discharge into the northern Gulf environment. Ajeel and Khalaf (1995) reported that the source of this species is from Khor al-Zubair waters. This species was observed only in the past few years in our waters pointing out that they were carried by the outflow of the Third River waters into the northern Gulf.

Impact of Marsh Restoration

Several authors addressed the subjects of marsh restoration plans and ecological assessment of the marshes (EA ITAP, 2003; Lawler, 2005; Richardson et al., 2005; Richardson and Hussain, 2006). The Mesopotamian marshes in southern Iraq were almost destroyed (except for part of the Hawizeh marsh) by the year 2000. After the 2003 Gulf War, uncontrolled releases of Tigris and Euphrates waters occurred in an effort to rehabilitate Iraq's southern marshes (Richardson et al., 2005). These waters were of high quality as a result of peak river flow during 2004 and 2005, allowing restoration of 39% of the drained marshes by September 2005 (Richardson and Hussain, 2006).

Turbidity was chosen as an indicator for the impact of marsh restoration on Kuwait's northern waters during 2004 and 2005. The results of this study indicate that although marsh rehabilitation is in its early stages, the average turbidity levels in Khor Al-Sabiya for 2004 and 2005 decreased to almost half the levels prior to the marsh restoration from 1997–2003.

Fisheries Impact

River basin modifications are known to have adverse impacts on downstream and coastal marine environments (Maltby, 1994). Fish populations do not follow political boundaries and many of the stocks between Kuwait and Iraq are shared. Primary among these is the Hilsa shad (Tenualosa ilisha), as this anadromous species relies on river-edge vegetation to spawn its eggs. The relationship between the silver pomfret (Pampus argenteus) and freshwater discharge is less clear because silver pomfret are capable of completing their life cycle in full-strength seawater (Almatar et al., 2000). Commercial populations of silver pomfret, however, are always associated with estuaries at river mouths, and the closest to Kuwait's is found around Iran's Qashem Island in the Strait of Hormoz where sufficient freshwater discharge is provided by the Minab and Shoor (or Shur) Rivers (Almatar et al., 2006). Since 1995, Kuwait's landings of Hilsa shad and silver pomfret have each dropped by 89% from over 1,000 t in 1995 to just over 100 t in 2004 (CSO, 1995–2004; Fig. 5, Fig. 6).

Species such as, the javelin grunter (Pomodasys kaakan), the yellow-fin seabream (Acanthopagrus latus), and the tigertooth croaker (Otolithes ruber) are also influenced by the discharge of the Shatt Al-Arab. However, landings' trends of these three species are mixed (CSO, 1995–2004). With the exception of 1999, when 245 t were landed, catches of the javelin grunter have declined from nearly 200 t in 1995 to 31 t in 2003 before rebounding to 109 t in 2004 (Fig. 7). The lower salinity waters around and immediately south of Bubiyan Island serve as nursery habitat for javelin grunter juveniles (Al-Husaini et al., 2001; Bishop et al., 2006). Yellow-fin seabream appears to be the least affected of these species as landings since 1995 have varied between 204 and 300 t, with the exception of 1999, which peaked at 463 t (Fig. 8). Landings of the tiger-tooth croaker have also tended to decrease. From a high of 1,583 t in 1995 (Fig. 9), landings have decreased 45% to 865 t in 2004. This species appears to seek the Gulf's northern waters for spawning because large numbers of gravid females are captured in the spring and early summer in Kuwait's territorial waters.

Relying on just landings data, however, has unavoidable shortcomings. River discharge influences recruitment, and landings data represent mixed year-classes. Consequently, a year of poor recruitment due to low river discharge may be offset by landings from a year of good recruitment during flood years. Monthly length-frequency data of annual landings would provide considerable insight into year-class strengths, but data are not available. Another shortcoming is the absence of effort data. Trends in landings, whether up or down, are highly influenced by effort. Thus, the declines of both the Hilsa shad and the silver pomfret could be the result of over-fishing, particularly for the shad. With limited entrances to the Shatt Al-Arab and low river flow, this species would be very vulnerable to gill nets blocking its migration routes to spawning grounds in the Tigris, Euphrates, and Karun Rivers.

For shrimp populations, there are substantial data showing that species, numbers, and sizes in Kuwait are different from those of Gulf countries south of Kuwait, (Bishop et al., 2001) and all evidence indicates this difference is due to the presence of the Shatt Al-Arab. Kuwait is the only country in the western Gulf to have commercial populations of Parapenaeopsis stylifera and Metapenaeus affinis. Depending on the season, these two species can account for as much as 40 to 50% of the annual commercial landings (Fig. 10). Kuwait's population of M. affinis was formerly enhanced by recruits from Iraq. Studies by Mathews et al. (1986) and Salman et al. (1990) have shown that the extensive Mesopotamian marshes of the lower Tigris Euphrates River system served as nursery habitat for M. affinis, and that juveniles emigrated in the colder months. It was presumed that the subadults egressed to the northern Gulf where they mature and spawn (Salman et al., 1990). The green tiger prawn (Penaeus semisulcatus), the primary shrimp species throughout the Gulf (van Zalinge, 1984) and Kuwait's main species, grows considerably larger in Kuwait than its counterparts further south (Bishop et al., 2001). The reason for the attaining of such a phenomenal size compared to its southern counterparts is likely due to food availability, which in turn results from Kuwait's proximity to the Shatt Al-Arab.

There are direct as well as indirect effects of the Shatt Al-Arab on Kuwait's shrimp populations. Indirect effects are likely more important than direct effects. The Tigris and Euphrates Rivers typically flood during the months of March through May (Maltby, 1994). Discharge waters decrease salinities while increasing nutrient loads of nitrates and phosphates, sediment, and dissolved organic matter. These nutrients encourage primary production in the form of phytoplankton or benthic vegetation. Much of Kuwait's marine fauna spawn during this season and the effects of the flood waters impact larval stages significantly. Shrimp populations appear to be particularly influenced by the Shatt Al-Arab. Besides the direct connection of nursery habitat for M. affinis in the Mesopotamian marshes, there is what appears to be an indirect effect on P. semisulcatus (Siddeek et al., 1994).

During years of record landings for Kuwait's shrimp fishery (Fig. 10), the species composition is comprised mainly of P. semisulcatus. Throughout its range from South Africa to Australia and Japan, juveniles of this species utilize benthic vegetation as nursery habitat. Kuwait does not have the extensive grass beds found in Bahrain and the southern part of Saudi Arabia, but there is seasonal presence of benthic macroalgae including Sargassum, Ulva and Enteromorpha. This vegetation is temperature sensitive and grows only during the colder months of January, February, March, and into April. When waters warm to about 25°C, Sargassum breaks free of its holdfast and floats to the surface. Bishop et al. (1994) estimated as few as 50 hectares of benthic Sargassum to be present in Kuwait's coastal waters south of Kuwait Bay. Given sufficient spawning biomass, then the limiting factor determining recruitment strength is likely to be the extent and duration of benthic vegetation. Sargassum extent and duration probably depends on nutrient availability and cool water temperatures. Thus, during years of extensive flooding and cool springs, Sargassumwould benefit from abundant nutrients and remain attached longer, providing more habitats for juvenile P. semisulcatus over a longer period resulting in record recruitment. Kuwait's shrimp fishery landed record catches in 1988/89, 1989/90, and 1992/93. Discharge data of the Shatt Al-Arab are not available, but Al-Hassan (1999) reported one of two great floods of the Shatt Al-Arab occurred in 1988. Unlike finfish, shrimp are an annual crop, and cause and effect are more easily determined for short-lived species than long-lived species.

Damming of Rivers

The GAP project is ongoing and will be completed in less than a decade. Upon completion, it will greatly reduce river flow to down stream countries of Syria and Iraq, which also have dams and irrigation projects. It is estimated that up to 60% less water will reach Syria and Iraq after GAP is implemented (Waterbury, 1996). This will create a serious problem for Iraq, as it is the lowest downstream country on the Euphrates and Tigris, and will no doubt affect the quantity and quality of the freshwater discharged into the northern Gulf.

Building dams across naturally flowing rivers reduces freshwater discharge into the sea, leading to reduction in nutrient concentration in coastal waters, which in turn diminishes plankton productivity and ultimately fish landings. Depletion of nutrients and organic matter as well as reduction of silt deposition could affect benthic life. Moreover, increases in salinity due to saltwater intrusion into northern estuaries may favor reproduction and density increases of medusae (Caddy and Griffiths, 1990), and problems with jellyfish invasions may become more serious as predators on eggs and larvae of fish (Greve et al., 1993). Another impact with dam construction is the dampening of seasonal flows. Flow rates of the Euphrates have ranged from a low of 180 m3s− 1 during droughts to 5,200 m3/s−1 during flooding, generally in April and May (Maltby, 1994; Akmansoy, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Texas at Austin, unpublished data, 1996). Floods and droughts are naturally reoccurring aspects of riverine ecosystems, and removal of these seasonal aspects of the annual cycle will have detrimental effects on their roles, both biologically and physically.

In general, the damming projects will irrevocably change the rivers' characters and functions and will impact the northern Gulf ecosystem with far-reaching, irreversible ecological consequences.

Conclusions and Gaps in Knowledge

Findings of this study show the interdependence between the Tigris and Euphrates River system and the marine environment of the northern Gulf. Salinity, turbidity and nutrient levels as well as plankton community compositions are good indicators for monitoring changes occurring as a result of fluctuating climate, discharge volume, and marsh destruction/restoration. Quantitative analysis of the flow regime and annual discharge rates is needed, which should consider the magnitude and seasonal variations of downstream flows into Iraq and the northern Gulf. We can easily predict that with the reduction of freshwater input from the Shatt Al-Arab and the absence of seasonal flooding, the northwestern Gulf will be saltier than it is at present, and the plankton communities and their density distributions as well as fish species and their relative numbers will change. It is likely that the characteristics of Kuwait's marine environment and its fisheries resources will become more like that of the Gulf countries further south, i.e., Saudi Arabia and Bahrain.

Gaps in Knowledge

The following studies are needed to fill the existing gaps in knowledge for the Gulf:

–Monthly and systematic surveys (coupled with satellite imagery) to describe the current oceanographic, hydrological, and ecological conditions in the waters of Kuwait and Iraq, prior to any upcoming changes in hydrological or environmental character due to river damming projects.

–Assessment of the current and potential ecological impact of flow reduction on Iraq and Kuwait as a result of the Southeast Anatolia Project, and formulation of environmental policy to mitigate effects of reduced discharges.

–Investigations to determine the spawning and nursery grounds for some of the shared stocks like the shad (Tenualosa ilisha), the pomfret (Pampus argenteus), and shrimps (e.g., M. affinis), and to understand the biology of the above species with respect to river discharge.

Acknowledgements

We thank the personnel of KISR's Oceanography group for providing relevant oceanography data, and the Fisheries Group, in particular, Mr. A. Al-Baz, Dr. Mohsin Al-Husaini and Mr. Hussain Mahmoud for their generous cooperation in providing Kuwait's fisheries landings data.

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