The United Arab Emirates (UAE) host valuable coastal and marine biodiversity that is subjected to multiple pressures under extreme conditions. To mitigate impacts on marine ecosystems, the UAE protects almost 12% of its Exclusive Economic Zone. This study mapped and validated the distribution of key coastal and marine habitats, species and critical areas for their life cycle in the Gulf area of the UAE. We identified gaps in the current protection of these ecological features and assessed the quality of the data used. The overall dataset showed good data quality, but deficiencies in information for the coastline of the northwestern emirates. The existing protected areas are inadequate to safeguard key ecological features such as mangroves and coastal lagoons. This study offers a solid basis to understand the spatial distribution and protection of marine biodiversity in the UAE. This information should be considered for implementing effective conservation planning and ecosystem-based management.