Proceedings of the Third World Fisheries Congress: Feeding the World with Fish in the Next Millenium—The Balance between Production and Environment

Toward Integrated Management of Kuwait’s Coastal Resources

Yimin Ye, Sulaiman Almatar


Kuwait’s north-to-south coastline stretches about 200 km from the northern shore of the Warba and Bubiyan Islands to the border with Saudi Arabia, south of Khiran. Northwesterly winds commonly mix the shallow waters of the northern Arabian Gulf, suspending particulate matter and maintaining turbidity from the silt-laden waters of the Shatt Al-Arab estuary. The unique features of the freshwater discharge system in the north and the gulf’s current circulation make the coastal waters off Kuwait rich in nutrients and more productive than those off the coasts of other western Arabian Gulf countries (Rao and Al-Yamani 2000). Some species—such as pink shrimp Metapenaeus affinis, silver pomfret Pampus argenteus, hilsa shad Tenualos ilisha, silver grunt Pomadasys kaakan, four-thread threadfin Eleutheronema tetradactylum, and silvery croaker Otolithes rubber—are commercially important only in Kuwait’s fisheries and depend on the discharge of the Shatt Al-Arab for spawning or nursery habitat (Al-Yamani et al. 2000).

Kuwait lacks water and has almost no arable land, thus preventing the development of agriculture. Therefore, the coast and the sea are crucially important. Before oil exploration, subsistence fishing provided the Kuwaitis’ staple diet, and the pearl oyster fishery was the major source of income (Afzal and Hayat 1977; Almatar 1983). Although the oil industry dominates the modern economy, about 7,000 t of fish and shrimp are landed each year from Kuwait’s coastal waters (Ye et al. 2000), and fishing still is the most important food source in Kuwait. However, local fishery production can meet only about 50% of the market demand; the remaining 50% is imported (CSO 1999). The gap between market demand and production creates great pressure on coastal marine resources.

As of 1999, the population of Kuwait was about 2 million, and the annual growth rate was 3.88%. About 80% of the population resided within 5 km of the sea. With growing population and development of the coastal zone, conflicts between various users are becoming more pronounced. However, existing regulations and legislation related to the coastal environment remain sectoral to a large extent and do not harmonize the economic development with sustainability.

After reviewing the present status of coastal management in Kuwait, we offer some suggestions for the sustainable development of Kuwait’s coastal resources.

In recognition of increasing environmental concern, Kuwait has participated in the development of regional agreements for environmental protection and has signed international agreements relating to environmental management and pollution control since the late 1970s. The major regional and international agreements are described in the following paragraphs.

The Kuwait Action Plan for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment and the Coastal Areas was signed on 23 April 1978. It is part of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Regional Seas Program. Although this plan was originally intended for the environmental protection of the Arabian Gulf and its coast, its stated objectives mirror those required of a coastal zone management policy.

The objectives of the action plan are that “industrial development should not damage the marine environment of the region, jeopardize its living resources, or create hazards to human health.” In particular, the plan recognizes “the need to develop an integrated management approach for the use of the marine environment and the coastal areas, which will allow the achievement of environmental and development goals in a harmonious manner” (UNEP 1978). This notion of managing coastal resources in an integrated way to ensure harmony between the environment and development goals lies at the core of coastal zone management planning.