The ecological state of the Persian or Arabian Gulf (hereafter ‘Gulf') is in sharp decline. Calls for comprehensive ecosystem-based management approaches and transboundary conservation have gone largely unanswered, despite mounting marine threats made worse by climate change. The region's long-standing political tensions add additional complexity, especially now as some Gulf countries will soon adopt ambitious goals to protect their marine environments as part of new global environmental commitments. The recent interest in global commitments comes at a time when diplomatic relations among all Gulf countries are improving. There is a window of opportunity for Gulf countries to meet global marine biodiversity conservation commitments, but only if scientists engage in peer-to-peer diplomacy to build trust, share knowledge and strategize marine conservation options across boundaries. The Gulf region needs more ocean diplomacy and coordination; just as critically, it needs actors at its science-policy interface to find better ways of adapting cooperative models to fit its unique marine environment, political context and culture. We propose a practical agenda for scientist-led diplomacy in the short term and lines of research from which to draw (e.g. co-production, knowledge exchange) to better design future science diplomacy practices and processes suited to the Gulf's setting.