Regional Organization for the Protection of the Marine Environment (ROPME)

Countries included

Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates.


John A. Burt
Associate Professor of Biology
New York University Abu Dhabi

Regional Context

Importance of coral reefs

The region contains just under 1% (2,009 km2) of the total global area of coral reefs. Coral reefs are the most biodiverse ecosystem in this arid region, and they support a fisheries sector that is second only to petroleum as an economic sector. The regions coral reefs are characterized by tolerance to extreme and highly variable environmental conditions, with reefs occurring in pseudo-high latitude environments (southern Oman upwelling area) and in the world’s hottest sea (southern Persian/Arabian Gulf), making this region an unparalleled ‘natural laboratory’ for understanding coral physiological and adaptive responses to extremes.


The Regional Organization for the Protection of the Marine Environment (ROPME) Sea Area includes eight nations bordering the Persian/Arabian Gulf and the Sea of Oman, each of which contain corals (ranging from well-developed true reefs to laminar coral carpets). Historically, coral reef research has been highly fragmented, but scientific interest both regionally and from international researchers has led to exponential growth in regional reef science in recent years. Most active reef researchers in ROPME nations are engaged in the larger pan-regional Mideast Coral Reef Society, which has hosted several conferences and workshops over the past decade to bring together regional scientists and conservationists to better understand trends in regional reef science.

Keys numbers


Total area of coral reefs (km2)


Proportion of the world’s coral reefs


Countries with coral reefs


Marine Ecoregions of the World (MEOW) (i)

(i) Marine Ecoregions of the World (MEOW) is a biogeographic classification of the world’s coasts and shelves (Spalding et al., 2007).

Key figures from the 2020 report

Hard coral cover

Algae cover


  • 2012: Coral Reefs of the Gulf conference (link)
  • 2015: Coral Reefs of Arabia conference (link)
  • 2016: Special Issue of Marine Pollution Bulletin: Coral Reefs of Arabia (link)
  • 2019: Arabian Coral Reefs: Insights from Extremes conference (link)
  • 2020: Special Issue of Coral Reefs: Coral Reefs in a Changing World: Insights from Extremes (link)
Warren Baverstock | Ocean Image Bank
Warren Baverstock | Ocean Image Bank


Regional reports and guidelines from the ROPME region.