Canada and USA have over a 100-year history of international cooperation on Great Lakes management. For over 30 years, federal, state, and provincial governments have successfully used locally-defined ecosystem approaches to develop and implement remedial action plans to restore beneficial uses impairments in 43 Great Lakes Areas of Concern. Each remedial action plan identifies use impairments/causes, remedial/preventive actions to restore uses, and implementation responsibilities and timeframes. Areas of concern are removed from the list when all uses are restored. Long-term efforts are needed to ensure sustainability through adaptive management. Shared resources, like the Arabian Gulf and Great Lakes, require collaboration among boundary countries to achieve common goals. A network of regional technical and governmental representatives could be established under or affiliated with the Regional Organization of Protecting Marine Environment to promote cleanup and ecosystem-based management of degraded areas of the Sea. It would have to be flexible, not prescriptive, science-based, action-oriented, and result in well recognized benefits to all partner countries. Workshops or conferences could be convened to address ecosystem issues. This network must be value-added and build capacity, and could eventually lead to use of locally-defined ecosystem approaches to develop cleanup plans for degraded areas of the Gulf, similar to Great Lakes Areas of Concern. Gulf countries, through the Regional Organization of Protecting Marine Environment and with support of a network, could then come together every three-five years to report on progress, identify research needs, celebrate successes, and establish next steps. Gulf I, II, and III conferences are building blocks for such a network. A logical next step would be to engage the Regional Organization of Protecting Marine Environment in the establishment of a network for ecosystem-based management and co-sponsorship of a Gulf IV Conference or other forum. In the spirit of cooperative learning, further exchanges of both scientific research and management practices would be beneficial between the Great Lakes and the Gulf.

Introduction

Both the North American Great Lakes and the Arabian Gulf (also known as the Persian Gulf or Inner Regional Organization of Protecting Marine Environment {ROPME} Sea Area) are globally significant natural resources. Both are also shared natural resources and have been impacted substantially by urbanization and industrialization.

The Great Lakes contain approximately 22,900 km3 of water, representing nearly one-fifth of the standing freshwater on the Earth’s surface (Figure 1). They are an interconnected chain of lakes, including Lakes Superior, Michigan, Huron, Erie, and Ontario. The Great Lakes drainage basin covers approximately 765,900 km2 and together the lakes have over 17,000 km of shoreline. Perhaps it is easiest to visualize this chain of lakes as a gigantic staircase, where the top step is Lake Superior and water descends a series of lake steps to the Atlantic Ocean.

Figure 1.

The North American Great Lakes, including polluted areas identified as Areas of Concern.

Figure 1.

The North American Great Lakes, including polluted areas identified as Areas of Concern.

The Great Lakes are shared between Canada and USA, including two Canadian provinces (i.e. Ontario and Quebec) and eight U.S. states (i.e. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New York). Approximately 34 million people in the USA and Canada live in the Great Lakes Basin – 8% of the USA population and about 32% of Canada’s population. Both countries depend on the Great Lakes for drinking water, transportation, economic opportunities, power, and recreation. For example, 48 million people in the U.S. and Canada get their drinking water from the Great Lakes (Great Lakes Commission, 2018). Cargo shipments on the Great Lakes St. Lawrence Seaway system generate $45.6 billion (U.S.) of economic activity and 328,500 jobs in Canada and the U.S. (Martin Associates, 2018). The Great Lakes directly generate more than 1.5 million jobs and $60 billion in wages annually and provide the backbone for a $5 trillion regional economy that would be one of the largest in the world if it stood alone as a country. Recreation on the Great Lakes – including boating, hunting, fishing, and birding opportunities – generates more than $76 billion annually for the region (Great Lakes Commission, 2018). Commercial, recreational, and tribal fisheries in the Great Lakes alone are collectively valued at more than $7 billion annually and support more than 75,000 jobs (Great Lakes Fishery Commission, 2018). Nearly 25% of Canadian and 7% of U.S agricultural production comes from the Great Lakes Basin.

The Arabian Gulf is situated in the subtropical region of the Middle East in Western Asia. It is considered a marginal sea and an extension of the Indian Ocean and is linked to the Sea of Oman through the Strait of Hormuz. It lies between Iran to the northeast and the Arabian Peninsula to the southwest (Figure 2). The Arabian Gulf covers some 240,000 km2 (Naser, 2013). It is relatively shallow, with a maximum depth of 90 m and an average depth of 35 m.

Figure 2.

Map of the Arabian Gulf with bordering countries (legend is of depth in meters).

Figure 2.

Map of the Arabian Gulf with bordering countries (legend is of depth in meters).

The Arabian Gulf is also a shared resource among eight countries, including Iran, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Iraq. Total population of the eight countries is 177.742 million (Iran: 82.012 million; Oman: 4.83 million; United Arab Emirates: 9.54 million; Saudi Arabia: 33.55 million; Qatar: 2.7 million; Bahrain: 1.57 million; Kuwait: 4.2 million; Iraq: 38.34 million). The region holds approximately 60% of the world’s oil reserves and Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates produced 27% of the world's oil in 1998. Although oil has dominated the economies of the Gulf countries, economic diversification is underway. Prior to their oil dominated economies, these coastal Gulf countries were successful centers of trade and commerce.

The Gulf plays vital roles in providing freshwater from desalination plants, and supporting major fishing, shipping, tourism, and other industries (Ahmed et al., 1998). Sheppard et al., (2010) have documented substantial degradation and human-induced impacts in the Gulf during the first decade of the 21st century. Hamza and Munawar (2009) reviewed the major anthropogenic stressors which threaten the Arabian Gulf and concluded that it lacked a holistic, ecosystem-based research and monitoring program and that there was a need for multi-disciplinary, multi-trophic and multi-agency international investigations, including the application of emerging technologies. Further, the authors noted that such an integrated strategy is urgently needed to protect the rapidly changing Gulf region, including developing and implementing ecosystem health agreements between the various riparian countries to ensure protection, conservation, and management of this threatened natural heritage. Khan (2007) has further noted that management of coastal areas of the Arabian Gulf is fragmented by arbitrary jurisdictions, rather than a shared vision of the health and sustainability of the entire 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 needed.

The purpose of this paper is to share lessons learned from the cleanup of the most polluted areas of the Great Lakes with the Arabian Gulf and explore how adopting a similar approach might be advantageous for the Arabian Gulf countries to restore and sustain the ecosystem health of their shared waters. It is based on a paper given at the Gulf III Conference held at UAE University on 5-7 November 2018 and discussions at the conference.

Restoring degraded areas of the Great Lakes

It is not surprising that because of the human population growth and expansion of commerce and industry there have been considerable anthropogenic impacts on the Great Lakes. From extirpation of beaver during the Fur Trade in the 1700s and 1800s, to sedimentation and loss of habitat during the logging era in the 1800s, to waterborne disease epidemics in the early-1900s, to cultural eutrophication starting in the 1950s and 1960s, to toxic substances’ contamination as a result of the industrial revolution, to concern for introduction of exotic species and loss of biodiversity in more recent years, the Great Lakes have experienced substantial degradation and perturbation (Government of Canada and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, 1995).

As a result, Canada and the USA have a long-standing commitment to work together to resolve problems along their common border, dating back over 100 years when the 1909 Boundary Waters Treaty was signed by the USA and Canada. This Treaty provides the principles and mechanisms for preventing and resolving disputes concerning water quantity and quality along the entire border (USA and Canada 1909). The scope of the Boundary Waters Treaty covers more than 130 rivers and lakes intersecting the Canada-U.S. border that stretches some 8,800 kilometers, 40% of which is water.

Progressive at the time of its signing, the Boundary Waters Treaty also states that waters shall not be polluted on either side of the boundary to the injury of health or property on the other side (USA and Canada 1909). As such, this Treaty is often described as the world’s first environmental agreement. The Boundary Waters Treaty established the International Joint Commission (IJC) as an independent and objective advisor to the USA and Canada and works for the common good of both countries in preventing and resolving disputes between the two countries. The IJC now has over a 100-year history in cooperative problem-solving of boundary water management issues and in requisite institutional arrangements. The IJC uses experts, serving in their personal and professional capacities, to undertake independent fact-finding and to provide independent advice for problem resolution. Its processes have compiled agreed-upon and trusted scientific and socioeconomic data and have interpreted these data in a public fashion to build broad-based understanding and support for action. More recently, IJC processes have fostered use of an ecosystem approach. It is widely accepted as a successful model for binational cooperation and for resolving trans-boundary environmental issues.

The Canada-USA Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement was initially signed in 1972 and revised in 1978, 1987, and 2012. As such, this Agreement has often been described as an evolving instrument for ecosystem-based management (Vallentyne and Beeton, 1988). It represents a commitment between the USA and Canada to restore and protect the waters of the Great Lakes and provides a framework for identifying binational priorities and implementing actions that improve water quality and ecosystem health. Canada and the USA are responsible for final decision-making under the Agreement and for the involvement and participation of State and Provincial governments, Tribal Governments, municipal governments, watershed management agencies, and other stakeholders. The IJC’s role under this Agreement is to analyze information provided by the governments, assess the effectiveness of programs in both countries, and report on progress toward meeting the Agreement’s objectives.

Since 1973, the IJC’s Great Lakes Water Quality Board, the principal advisor to the IJC on matter pertaining to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement, has periodically assessed the state of the Great Lakes. As part of these assessments, the Great Lakes Water Quality Board has identified specific harbors, embayments, river mouths, and connecting channels where one of more jurisdictional standards or general or specific water quality objectives of the Agreement were not being met (IJC 1985). These objectives and standards were being exceeded despite implementation of pollution control programs. Initially termed “problem areas”, these areas were later called Areas of Concern (AOCs).

The list of AOCs changed over time due to implementation of remedial and preventive programs and improvements in water quality, and the emergence of new problems and/or reinterpretation of the significance of earlier reports. The major problems identified have also changes in response to the evolution of scientific understanding of water quality problems (i.e. from recognition of bacterial pollution to eutrophication to toxic substances contamination to loss of habitat and biodiversity), improved ability to detect and measure problems, and progress in implementing remedial and preventive actions (Hartig and Thomas 1988).

Despite progress in abating bacterial and phosphorus pollution in many AOCs, the Great Lakes Water Quality Board reported in 1985 that progress had been stalled in 42 AOCs where general or specific objectives of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement were not being met and such failure had caused or had likely caused impairment of beneficial use or of the area’s ability to support aquatic life (Figure 1). A 43rd AOC was identified in in 1991 (i.e. Presque Isle Bay, Erie, Pennsylvania, USA). Impairment of beneficial use means a change in the chemical, physical, or biological integrity of the Great Lakes ecosystem sufficient to cause any of 14 beneficial use impairments (Table 1).

Table 1.

Beneficial use impairments identified in the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and their status in AOCs in 1987 (Hartig, 1988).

Beneficial Use ImpairmentNumber of AOCs That Identified This Beneficial Use Impairment in 1987 (42 AOCs were identified in 1987)
Restrictions of fish and wildlife consumption 38 
Tainting of fish and wildlife flavor 
Degradation of fish and wildlife populations 18 
Fish tumors or other deformities 17 
Bird or animal deformities or reproductive problems 
Degradation of benthos 40 
Restrictions on dredging activities 31 
Eutrophication or undesirable algae 21 
Restrictions on drinking water consumption, or taste and odor problems 
Beach closings 
Degradation of aesthetics 19 
Added costs to agriculture or industry 
Degradation of phytoplankton or zooplankton populations 28 
Loss of fish and wildlife habitat 17 
Beneficial Use ImpairmentNumber of AOCs That Identified This Beneficial Use Impairment in 1987 (42 AOCs were identified in 1987)
Restrictions of fish and wildlife consumption 38 
Tainting of fish and wildlife flavor 
Degradation of fish and wildlife populations 18 
Fish tumors or other deformities 17 
Bird or animal deformities or reproductive problems 
Degradation of benthos 40 
Restrictions on dredging activities 31 
Eutrophication or undesirable algae 21 
Restrictions on drinking water consumption, or taste and odor problems 
Beach closings 
Degradation of aesthetics 19 
Added costs to agriculture or industry 
Degradation of phytoplankton or zooplankton populations 28 
Loss of fish and wildlife habitat 17 

As a result of the recommendation of the Great Lakes Water Quality Board, the eight Great Lakes states and the Province of Ontario, with support from the federal governments of the USA and Canada, committed in 1985 to developing and implementing a remedial action plan (RAP) to restore all beneficial uses in each Area of Concern within their political boundaries (IJC 1985). This commitment to developing and implementing RAPs to restore all impaired beneficial uses in AOCs was then codified in the 1987 Protocol to the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (Canada and USA, 1987).

Each RAP was to identify use impairments and causes, remedial and preventive actions needed to restore use impairments, agencies or organizations responsible for implementing the actions, and the timeframe for implementation to increase accountability. Further, RAPs were to adopt an ecosystem approach that accounts for the interrelationships among air, water, land, and all living things, including humans, and involves all user groups in management (Canada and USA, 1987; Hartig and Vallentyne 1989). At that time, the development of RAPs represented a challenging departure from historical pollution control efforts, where separate programs like regulation of municipal and industrial discharge, urban runoff, agricultural runoff, and others were implemented without consideration of overlapping responsibilities or consequences (Hartig and Vallentyne 1989, Hartig and Zarull 1992).

Since the commitment to RAPs in 1985, it is fair to say that there were 43 locally-designed ecosystem approaches to use restoration in AOCs. As of 2017, seven AOCs have been delisted, two have been designated as AOCs in Recovery, 18 have implemented all remedial actions deemed necessary for use restoration, 67 of 146 known use impairments identified in Canadian AOCs, and 73 of 255 known use impairments in U.S. AOCs have been eliminated (Hartig et al., 2018). Major achievements of the AOC Program, beyond restoration of impaired uses, have included fostering use of an ecosystem approach, establishment of contaminated sediment remediation programs, and elevating the priority of controlling cultural eutrophication and rehabilitating and enhancing fish and wildlife habitat. Although much progress has been made, much remains to be done to restore all impaired uses and delist all AOCs, and to fulfill the spirit and intent of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

Restoring impaired uses and solving environmental problems in AOCs required cooperative learning among the two countries, eight Great Lakes states, the Province of Ontario, and other stakeholders. To help facilitate cooperative learning and move forward together, science-based workshops, conferences, technology transfer sessions, and forums were convened (Table 2). This helped provide guidance, ensure a mutually-supportive program, and foster cooperative learning. Successful RAPs have been: cleanup- and prevention-driven; made existing programs and statutes work; cut through bureaucracy; established priorities on a local basis and worked to elevate those priorities; ensured strong local planning processes; streamlined the critical path to use restoration; and been affirming processes (Hartig, 1997).

Table 2.

Examples of Great Lakes science-based workshops, conferences, technology transfer sessions, and forums convened to provide guidance to help move the RAPs forward.

Workshop, Conference, Technology Transfer Session, or ForumPurposeReference
Monitoring in Areas of Concern Workshop Define the severity and geographic extent of problems IJC (1987); Rathke and Hartig (1987
Workshops on assessment and remediation of contaminated sediment Share tools to assess contaminated sediment problems and options to remediate contaminated sediment IJC (1988a, b
Workshop on establishing quantitative fish community and habitat objectives Share experiences in establishing quantitative targets and objectives Hartig et al. (1996
Habitat Technology Transfer Session Share options for rehabilitating and enhancing habitat Kelso and Hartig (1995
“How clean is clean?” workshop Determine when ecological conditions have improved enough to be deemed clean Zarull and Hartig (2001); Hartig et al., (1997); 
Symposium on practical application for use of an ecosystem approach Identify practical tools for implementing an ecosystem approach Hartig et al., (1998
Statewide Public Advisory Committee meetings and Canada-Ontario Agreement Meetings Share knowledge and promote cooperative learning among AOCs www.glc.org/work/SPAC Government of Canada (2014
Workshop, Conference, Technology Transfer Session, or ForumPurposeReference
Monitoring in Areas of Concern Workshop Define the severity and geographic extent of problems IJC (1987); Rathke and Hartig (1987
Workshops on assessment and remediation of contaminated sediment Share tools to assess contaminated sediment problems and options to remediate contaminated sediment IJC (1988a, b
Workshop on establishing quantitative fish community and habitat objectives Share experiences in establishing quantitative targets and objectives Hartig et al. (1996
Habitat Technology Transfer Session Share options for rehabilitating and enhancing habitat Kelso and Hartig (1995
“How clean is clean?” workshop Determine when ecological conditions have improved enough to be deemed clean Zarull and Hartig (2001); Hartig et al., (1997); 
Symposium on practical application for use of an ecosystem approach Identify practical tools for implementing an ecosystem approach Hartig et al., (1998
Statewide Public Advisory Committee meetings and Canada-Ontario Agreement Meetings Share knowledge and promote cooperative learning among AOCs www.glc.org/work/SPAC Government of Canada (2014

Building upon and working through the Regional Organization for the Protection of the Marine Environment

In 1978, the Regional Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Areas of Bahrain, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates was convened in Kuwait. This 1978 conference adopted the Kuwait Action Plan for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Areas, the Kuwait Regional Convention for Co-operation on the Protection of the Marine Environment from Pollution, and the Protocol concerning Regional Co-operation in Combating Pollution by Oil and Other Harmful Substances in Cases of Emergency.

ROPME Sea Area refers to the sea area surrounding the eight Arabian Gulf countries. This term (i.e. ROPME Sea Area) was coined by Plenipotentiaries of the Member States to achieve unanimity in denoting the area covered by the Kuwait Regional Convention of 1978. It reflects the goodwill of the Member Countries to cooperate in protecting their common marine environment in spite of the existing geopolitical boundaries.

The Kuwait Action Plan primarily covers activities relating to oil pollution, industrial wastes, sewage and marine resources. Projects range over coastal area management, fisheries, public health, land-based activities, sea-based pollution, biodiversity, oceanography, marine emergencies, GIS and remote sensing, environmental awareness, and capacity building. Major milestones achieved include the creation in 1979 of the ROPME, the establishment in 1982 of the Marine Emergency Mutual Aid Centre, and the adoption of four protocols addressing marine emergencies, hazardous wastes, land-based activities, and sea-based pollution

Since its establishment, ROPME has provided technical coordination to the Kuwait Action Plan and assisted its eight-member countries in the implementation of the Convention and its Protocols, as well as a number of projects covering environmental assessment and environmental management, including public awareness and training. The Kuwait Convention and its protocols have made a substantial positive impact towards the protection of the marine environment and coastal areas from pollution, however, the region is still faced with major environmental challenges. Nadim et al. (2008) have reported that ROPME has faced many drawbacks since its inception, including military conflicts, poor enforcement of protocols, lack of adequate coordination, disharmony among littoral states, and lack of sufficient funding, that have put many coastal management programs on hold.

ROPME has a 40-year history of Gulf cooperation that should be built upon to cleanup polluted areas of the Arabian Gulf and foster trans-boundary ecosystem-based management. Just as the Canada-USA Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement gave legitimacy to the RAP program to cleanup AOCs, ROPME could give legitimacy to a cooperative, international effort to cleanup degraded areas of the Arabian Gulf. Clearly, there is already a certain amount of trust built up among the Gulf countries and working through the ROPME institutional structure would be most efficient and effective. Indeed, Haas (2002) has shown that it is better to work in and through existing institutional arrangements to coordinate information flow for science policy. However, it is recognized that ecosystem-based management and cleanup of degraded areas of the Arabian Gulf with not happen quickly (Haas, 2002).

Transferring lessons learned and moving forward on ecosystem-based management in the Arabian Gulf

As with most aquatic ecosystems there is a need for strengthening the science-policy-management linkages. Shared resources like the Arabian Gulf and North American Great Lakes require international collaboration to achieve common goals. Based on experience with the North American Great Lakes it is recommended that efforts start small and build a record of success that leads to some form of action plans to cleanup degraded areas of the Arabian Gulf.

A network of regional technical professionals and governmental representatives could be established under ROPME to address Arabian Gulf ecosystem priorities, promote cleanup of degraded areas of the Arabian Gulf, and foster ecosystem-based management in the ROPME Sea Area. Any such effort should be established under ROPME or affiliated with ROPME to ensure legitimacy. Again, working in and through the Canada-USA Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement and its International Joint Commission gave legitimacy to the RAP Program to clean up Great Lakes AOCs.

Based on experience with the Great Lakes, any Gulf network should place a high priority on pollution prevention and control of contaminants at source to minimize the future need for contaminated sediment remediation. Again, contaminated sediment remediation alone on the U.S. side of the Great Lakes between 2011 and 2017 exceeded over $1 billion (Table 2). Any such Gulf network and its work must be flexible, not prescriptive, science-based, action-oriented, and result in well recognized benefits to all partner countries. Such a ROPME-affiliated network would help all member countries move forward together using locally-designed standards, frameworks, and approaches, and international best management practices. Based on experience in the North American Great Lakes, it might be best to start with science initiatives and move forward in an iterative fashion consistent with adaptive management (i.e. where assessments are made, priorities established, and actions taken in an iterative fashion for continuous improvement).

Workshops, roundtables, symposia, or conferences could be convened to address specific issues like reaching agreement on severity and geographic extent of contaminated sediments, critical habitats to sustain biodiversity, remedial and restoration options, coral reef conservation, harmful algal blooms, quantification of ecosystem services, etc. Such forums will also help raise awareness of critical Gulf issues. Indeed, Rezai et al. (2004) have demonstrated the importance of raising awareness of the value of coral reefs to stimulate vigorous monitoring and effective management of the Arabian Gulf.

This proposed network could also help ROPME develop ROPME-positions, strengthen science-policy-management linkages, and help share best management practices that would build a record of success and help foster trusting working relationships. Pilot projects addressing critical Gulf issues should be developed and implemented with financial support by ROPME. It would be critical that any such network be perceived as value-added and building capacity. Such an approach could eventually lead to development of individual Gulf remedial action plans, Gulf Sustainability Plans, or Gulf Ecosystem Action Plans by each country for their degraded areas of the Arabian Gulf similar to the RAP program of cleanup Great Lakes AOCs. The name for these plans would come out of the ROPME institutional structure, with possible help from a network. Each country could then independently use a locally-defined ecosystem approach to identify their water quality problems, actions necessary to address problems, and responsibilities/timeframes for implementation of actions. Arabian Gulf countries, through ROPME and with support of a network, could then come together every three-five to report on progress, identify research needs, celebrate successes, and establish next steps.

Moreover, Van Lavieren and Klaus (2013) have recommended establishing a comprehensive long-term regional initiative for holistic management of the ROPME Sea Area (RSA) coastal and marine ecosystems, including:

  • Establishing a mechanism for regional collaboration in monitoring the status and health of critical marine habitats and fisheries;

  • Initiating and supporting a comprehensive regional level economic valuation study of coastal and marine biodiversity, resources and habitats;

  • Evaluating the effectiveness of marine protected areas, gaps, and information needs;

  • Conducting transboundary diagnostic analyses to identify high priority shared or transboundary coastal and marine issues within the RSA;

  • Evaluating the impact on the hydrodynamics of the northern Gulf, its ecosystem, and resources due to the significant increase of salinity from upstream to downstream of Shatt Al-Arab resulting from a decline in quantity and quality of freshwater discharge into the northern Gulf;

  • Developing a Strategic Integrated Action Program based on findings of the transboundary diagnostic analysis to identify ecosystem quality objectives, targets, and actions to address the proximal and root causes of priority transboundary issues; and

  • Adopting the Regional Protocol on Biological Diversity and Specially Protected Areas.

Sheppard et al., (2010) have that shown over the past four decades disturbances in the Gulf have escalated at a greater rate than amelioration by management interventions. This has resulted in a spiral of decline in aquatic ecosystem health in the Gulf. Khan (2007) has shown that coastal management of the Gulf is fragmented by arbitrary jurisdictions, rather than a shared vision of the health and sustainability of the entire Gulf ecosystem. Clearly, there are major differences in attitudes of government and society between the North American Great Lakes and the Arabian Gulf, and there are differences in environmental legislation and water resource management. However, use of locally-designed ecosystem approaches to restore degraded area of the Gulf could simultaneously raise awareness of the need for restoration and build capacity to achieve pollution prevention and restoration in degraded areas of the Gulf. Again, any such effort should be initiated in and through ROPME as a network that adds value and builds capacity for ecosystem-based management.

Concluding remarks

Gulf I, II, and III conferences are good examples of building blocks for a Gulf ecosystem network. A logical next step would be to engage ROPME in the establishment of a network that adds value and builds capacity for ecosystem-based management and to invite ROPME to be a co-sponsor of a Gulf IV Conference or other desired workshop or roundtable that addresses a critical Gulf issue of mutual concern. In the spirit of cooperative learning, further exchanges of both scientific research and management practices would be beneficial between the North American Great Lakes and the Arabian Gulf. It is important to recognize that ROPME should have the flexibility to adapt international agreements on aquatic basins (i.e. similar to the Great Lakes) to incrementally build a comprehensive action plan with agreed to timeframes for remedial and preventive actions. That plan should be agreed to and signed by all the Gulf countries and individually implemented in each country as a national project, where all scientific organizations and governmental and non-governmental bodies make an explicit commitment to achieve RPOME deadlines within the plan.

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