This western Asian body of water is filled with biodiversity and surrounded by oil-rich lands. The Persian Gulf is geographically situated between the Arabian Peninsula and Iran, spanning 615 miles in length with a 97,000 square-mile surface area. It has numerous islands, although its deepest part is only 300 feet, while its average depth is 160 feet. A total of eight countries are found along its basin, and that list includes Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, and Iran. The Persian Gulf is known by many names, such as the “Gulf of Iran,” the “Arabian Gulf,” “The Gulf of Arabia”, and, obviously, the “Persian Gulf” as well.
Since ancient times, the Persian Gulf has seemed to have attracted many foreign powers for its rich resources. Portuguese navigator Vasco da Gama certainly made forays into the gulf in the early 16th Century. Then, in 1521, Antonio Correia brought with him a Portuguese force and captured Bahrain for its pearl resources. Then, 81 years later, the Persian emperor chased the Portuguese out of the gulf. Much later on, Persia opened the gulf to trade again with several countries. The gulf also played a crucial role during World War II, when the Western Allies supported Russia by sending military and industrial supply to the Russians by way of the Persian Gulf. Today, the British maintain a military connection to the area, and their presence is still seen on bases in the Gulf's waters.
The Persian Gulf boasts of having rich sources of pearl oysters, copious fishing grounds, and teeming coral reefs. Crude oil extraction and processing, however, is the largest industry in the Persian Gulf and its surrounding coastal regions. The largest offshore oil field in the world, Saudi Arabia's Ghawar field, can be found in the area as well. Natural gas fields also play in as an important resource in the economies of the countries in the Persian Gulf basin. The Persian Gulf holds around 35% of the world's natural gas reserves, and about two-thirds of its crude oil reserves. The name "Persian Gulf States" pertains to the oil rich countries in the area. Professional archaeologists, geographers, geologists, and scholars have all worked at one time or another in the area to better understand its historical, geological, religious, and economic significance.
Habitat and Biodiversity
The Persian Gulf has a diverse mix of habitats, including marine waters, mangroves, coastlines, wetlands, and riverine areas inland. The mangroves are home to shrubs and trees that harbor shrimp as company. It is also a refuge for small fish, insects, and crabs. Finless porpoises, dolphins, dugongs, and whales all call the Persian Gulf waters their homes as well. Migratory birds, as well as local birds, compete for food in the area. Warblers, flamingos, and turtles are all commonly seen. There are around 700 indigenous species of fish here, of which several are endemic to the Persian Gulf and nowhere else. The abundant coral reefs also play a role as refuges for aquatic life in the marine waters of the Gulf.
Environmental Threats and Territorial Disputes
Although the Persian Gulf states all have a stake in the area and are each actively involved in the same petrochemicals industry, there have always been rivalries among them. During the Iran-Iraq War from 1980 to 1988, both countries targeted each other's oil tankers in the gulf. In 1991, the Gulf War was preceded by Iraq's invasion of Kuwait. Oil spills, urban development, and industrialization all have contributed to steady destruction in the Persian Gulf's ecosystems. Rivalry between Iran and some other Arab states has produced a problem concerning the name of "Persian Gulf" itself. The result was that most Sunni Arab states today call the gulf the “Arabian Gulf" in opposition to the Shi'a Iran (a.k.a. Persia). There is also the ongoing Abu Musa Island territorial dispute that has yet to be resolved between Iran and the United Arab Emirates.