Posts Tagged ‘overfishing’

China starts restoration of ruined coral reefs in South China Sea

January 3, 2019

At the start of the year, Beijing installed facilities that would protect and recover coral reefs damaged by its massive land reclamation activities in the South China Sea.

A report from the South China Morning Post said that China’s Ministry of Natural Resources announced that it is working on restoring the ecosystem of coral reefs in the area.

China reportedly started recovery work on Fiery Cross, Mischief and Subi Reefs, three of its biggest artificial islands in the Spratly Islands, which are also being claimed by the Philippines.

According to the report, the Chinese government announced that it is conducting surveys to identify areas that would be protected and restored.

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The Chinese Ministry of Natural Resources said natural and artificial methods would be used to revive the reefs. Beijing appears to have developed recovery techniques meant especially for the Spratlys.

In September 2017, Washington-based CSIS Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative warned that resources in the South China Sea are in danger of collapse due to overfishing.

China’s large-scale clam harvesting and dredging for island construction have destroyed over 160 square kilometers of coral reefs, the think tank reported.

Beijing earlier dismissed reports that Chinese fishermen are destroying coral reefs in the South China Sea, claiming that such reports are “severely biased and misleading.”


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Divers swim above a bed of dead corals off Malaysia’s Tioman island in the South China Sea May 4, 2008.Reuters/David Loh

As early as December 2015, China clarified that scientific evaluation and argumentation were conducted prior to constructing artificial islands in the contested waterway.

“Placing equal emphasis on construction and protection, China has taken into full account issues like ecological environment and fishery protection, strictly followed environmental standards and requirements during construction, and adopted many effective measures to protect ecological environment,” then-Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said.

About three years after making this statement, China is making efforts to protect the environment in the South China Sea, which it primarily promised to protect.

Coral rubble remains after "chopper" boats killed branching corals, which were subsequently further broken up by storm waves of blast fishing.

Coral rubble remains after “chopper” boats from China killed branching corals, which were subsequently further broken up by storm waves of blast fishing.

There have been calls for the Philippine government to demand for compensation following Chinese fishermen’s destruction of coral reefs on Panatag or Scarborough Shoal. The damage of the reefs can be seen on Google Earth, a software that renders a 3D representation of Earth based on satellite imagery.

Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio noted that the Philippines did not ask for damages in the arbitration case, which was awarded in July 2016.

“This time the Philippines should demand damages for the economic losses of Filipino fishermen,” Carpio said in June last year.

Carpio, part of the government’s legal team in the South China Sea arbitration, also suggested asking for damages for the actions of China in preventing Filipino fishermen from entering the lagoon of Scarborough Shoal.

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Above chart shows China’a “Nine Dash Line.” China says it owns all ocean territory north of the Nine Dash Line. There is no international legal precedent for this Chinese claim. On July 12, 2016, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague said this claim by China was not valid and outside the norms of international law.

The July 2016 landmark ruling invalidated Beijing’s historic nine-dash line claim over the South China Sea. The United Nations-backed tribunal also concluded that China violated its commitment under the Convention on the Law of the Sea for constructing artificial islands in Manila’s exclusive economic zone in the West Philippine Sea.

Beijing, however, refused to acknowledge the arbitration and insisted that it has indisputable sovereignty over the disputed waters.



Beijing to restore coral reefs ‘damaged by island building’ in South China Sea

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Philippine fisherfolk in the South China Sea






As nations fight for control, South China Sea coral reefs are dying in silence

December 31, 2018
  • James Borton and Jackson Ewing say the devastation wrought by island building in the waters, mainly by China, is having a big impact on an already fragile ecosystem
  • Cooperation on scientific research and environmental management must be encouraged to limit the damage, and as a way to build trust
PUBLISHED : Saturday, 29 December, 2018, 9:02am
UPDATED : Saturday, 29 December, 2018, 9:07am

South China Morning Post

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The worst of nature’s battlefields are visible in the destroyed South China Sea coral reefs. Over the past five years, China has added more than 1,300 hectares to islands, reefs and atolls primarily on the Spratly archipelago, in the waters between Vietnam, Malaysia and the Philippines – which, along with China, Taiwan, and Brunei, have competing claims to the territories. Vietnam has likewise engaged in artificial island construction, albeit on a much smaller scale, as each claimant seeks, through varied means, to maximise their own position.

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Divers swim above a bed of dead corals off Malaysia’s Tioman island in the South China Sea May 4, 2008.Reuters/David Loh

The South China Sea’s complex and interconnected ecosystems need the voices of marine scientists to quell the degradation wrought by such island construction, as well as the overfishing and the harvesting of critical species that mar the region.

The rich marine biodiversity feeds on the patina of living corals and is home to a multibillion-dollar fishery industry, ranging from fleets of state-of-the art mega-trawlers to small wooden boats. Directly and indirectly, the South China Sea supports the food security, livelihoods, and quality of life of hundreds of millions of people.

The accelerating environmental peril in the South China Sea is inseparable from the territorial disputes that plague it. Increasing numbers of coral reefs, seagrass beds, and other shallow-water ecosystems have been destroyed and buried primarily as a result of China’s push to stake concrete claims in the region. The land reclamation projects continue to undermine ecological connections between the Spratly Islands and waters of the South China Sea, choking off the supply of nutrients upon which these fragile ecosystems depend.

Coral rubble remains after "chopper" boats killed branching corals, which were subsequently further broken up by storm waves of blast fishing.

Coral rubble remains after “chopper” boats from China killed branching corals, which were subsequently further broken up by storm waves of blast fishing.

Within this troubled context, environmental cooperation is essential for the sea’s ecological future, and may offer a pathway for defusing strategic tension and building trust among claimants. Key leaders must be convinced to coalesce around environmental management and research, as well as setting rules for construction, amid the military posturing and economic nationalism that dominate the current status quo.

There are precedents for such cooperation and confidence-building in the South China Sea.

In the 2000s, the UN Environmental Programme led cooperative activities with support from all the major claimants to the sea. The project brought together scientists and marine experts to determine the sea’s greatest environmental challenges and map out potential responses.

Other bilateral and multilateral scientific cooperative activities, such as the Joint Oceanographic Marine Science Research Expedition in the South China Sea from 1996-2007, have pursued similar objectives. This project was initiated between the Philippines and Vietnam, to show others in the region that the challenges associated with territorial disputes could be mitigated through science.

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Filipino fish port workers prepare tuna for export in General Santos City in the Philippines. Coral reefs in the South China Sea sustain a rich marine biodiversity that is home to a multibillion-dollar fishery industry. Directly and indirectly, the South China Sea supports the food security, livelihoods and quality of life of hundreds of millions of people. Photo: EPA-EFE

In both cases, participants were less concerned with sovereignty and politics than with collecting and analysing scientific data, which contributed to civil and relatively uncontroversial collaboration. Despite the best efforts to create a space in which trusting relationships can exist among countries embroiled in fractious disputes, both projects fizzled out in the late 2000s. The research revealed that two-thirds of the fish stock was in a decline.

Nevertheless, the programmes’ objectives offer keen insights into how data sets and the common language of science can enrich public policy discussions. For example, some recently formed groupings facilitate exchanges between countries to discuss regional marine challenges.

Such collaboration has never been more critical, as the message is clear: fish, coral, mangrove, and seagrass stocks in the South China Sea have importance beyond their immediate marine environments, and are being disrupted at an unprecedented scale. As critical spawning grounds and early gestational habitats for aquatic resources, the shallow waters surrounding South China Sea reefs and archipelagos feeds stocks throughout the region. Once degradation passes critical thresholds, these resources may be irreparably damaged.

Hence, a growing food security challenge looms as the destruction of marine habitats combines with unsustainable overfishing practices. The latter is accelerated by growing demand for aquatic protein in Asia – a result of laudable development progress – and the uncertainty of future access fuelled by territorial disputes.

A giant clam shell, riddled with wormholes, sits amid dead coral from "chopper" boat operations.

A giant clam shell, riddled with wormholes, sits amid dead coral from “chopper” boat operations.


Garrett Hardin, author of The Tragedy of the Commons, laments the fate of oceans to “continue to suffer from the survival of the philosophy of the commons”, as maritime nations “bring species after species of fish and whales closer to extinction”. Unlike the air, soil and freshwater pollution eliciting a public backlash in Asia, much of the South China Sea degradation is going on in relative silence.

Addressing this challenge requires accurate scientific assessments of the current state of play. In the South China Sea, this means regional scientists gathering data and sharing information. For geopolitical and environmental management experts and practitioners, the task is to bring the findings to people and institutions in positions to drive more sustainable policies.

In combination, these strategies can yield tangible environmental outcomes while helping to modestly desensitise the territorial dispute. Sharing more data and connecting with one another through structured and regular multilateral dialogue and, more ambitiously, joint scientific marine expeditions is a goal worth pursuing.

Such cooperation is no panacea, and scientific exchanges in the South China Sea will continually intersect with geopolitical realities in ways that risk making them only peripherally about the environment. Regardless of strategic tensions, however, claimant nations can ill-afford not to seek scientific common ground through environmental cooperation. The currents wait for no one, and with marine life fast disappearing and fisheries collapsing, the urgency for science cannot be ignored any longer.

James Borton is a journalist writing about the Mekong region and the South China Sea and most recently edited Islands and Rocks in the South China Sea: Post-Hague Ruling. Jackson Ewing is a senior fellow at the Duke University Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions

See also:

One Result Of China’s Buildup In South China Sea: Environmental Havoc


Illegal Fishing Is a Global Security Threat

December 29, 2018

It can fuel food shortages, arms trafficking, and even terrorism. It’s also very big business.

Fish aren’t the only victims.  Photographer: Gatha Ginting/AFP/Getty Images

As ChinaRussia and the U.S. ramp up their naval deployments, there’s no shortage of conflicts waiting to happen in the world’s oceans. Yet the most immediate cause for concern is something more mundane than great-power rivalries. Pay closer attention to fish.

Seafood is the main source of protein for 3 billion people worldwide, and the industry employs more than 55 million workers. But with 90 percent of fish stocks now fully depleted or overfished and the world’s reefs dying, fleets are increasingly operating illegally in other countries’ exclusive waters and in areas of the high seas protected by international agreements. Experts believe at least 20 percent of the global harvest comes from this “illegal, unreported and unregulated” fishing, which brings in an estimated $15.5 billion to $36 billion a year.

Failing fisheries will lead to shortages of food and large movements of population — fueling war, crime and terrorist recruiting. Unlawful fishing has increased tensions between nations from the South China Sea to the Bay of Bengal to the Patagonian coast and beyond. Many illegal fishing operations are run by criminal organizations that enslave their crews and use the ships for human trafficking; hostage-taking; piracy; and transporting drugs, weapons and so-called blood diamonds. Iranian fishing boats, for example, have been caught trying to smuggle arms to Houthi rebels in Yemen, and the Pakistani terrorists who carried out the bloody attack on Mumbai in 2008 entered India in a hijacked fishing boat.

In short, illegal fishing needs to be taken seriously as a global security threat.

Governments are doing too little to fight it — and some are actually encouraging it. The most notorious violator is China, the largest consumer and exporter of seafood. Beijing offers subsidies to deep-water operators, and its coast guard accompanies fleets when they violate neighbors’ exclusive economic zones. Indonesia has blown up hundreds of Chinese boats in its waters, while nations across the globe accuse Chinese fishermen of raiding their local fisheries.

But China certainly isn’t the only rule-breaker. The U.S. has accused Central and South American countries of illegal fishing, and nongovernmental groups have documented infractions by European countries including Italy and Spain.

In the short term, the U.S. should step up efforts by its Navy, Coast Guard, NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to use their sophisticated sensors and satellites to track down fishing ships operating without required transponders.

But the key to end the pillaging of the oceans is transparency. Governments and agencies already collect tons of data, but they share it poorly and keep much of it private. Global corporations including Google are helping nongovernmental groups track and visualize data that’s posted on the internet. The aim is to let customers see what has been legally caught and what hasn’t, so that market pressure can do its work.

QuicktakeQuicktake: Overfishing

That could amount to something, but it’s by no means enough. Governments should comply more fully with the many  treaties on oceanic resources they’ve already signed. For instance, more than 50 countries have signed a pact to better manage their ports by denying entry to boats that can’t document their catches; enforcement at major ports has been pretty good, but illegal fisherman head to smaller ones that still lack monitoring.

Data, closer cooperation and stronger enforcement will all be needed to crack this problem. If it remains unsolved, the harm will be far greater than you might think.

To contact the senior editor responsible for Bloomberg View’s editorials: David Shipley .


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Image courtesy CIMSEC / National Defense

Filipino fishermen pass by a large Chinese vessel at the disputed Scarborough Shoal. Photo: Reuters/Erik De Castro

Filipino fishermen pass by a large Chinese vessel at the disputed Scarborough Shoal. Photo: Reuters/Erik De Castro

Chinese fishing boats

The demolition and sinking of a pirate fishing ship by the Indonesian Navy at the Pangandaran Sea, West Java. Photo: NurPhoto via AFP/ Donal Husni

The demolition and sinking of a pirate fishing ship by the Indonesian Navy at the Pangandaran Sea, West Java. Photo: NurPhoto via AFP/ Donal Husni


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Protesters display placards and shout slogans in continuing protest against China over its coast guards’ alleged seizure of fish caught by Filipino fishermen near the contested Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea Thursday, June 14, 2018 by the baywalk in Manila, Philippines. The protesters denounced China’s recent alleged harassment and assailed President Rodrigo Duterte for his “sheer neglect to assert our legal and historic claim” in the South China Sea.

AP/Bullit Marquez
See also:

Will the South China Sea Become a Chinese Lake?

July 4, 2018

Twelve days at sea on a French warship provide occasion to ponder what lies ahead for the disputed waterway.

Published on: July 3, 2018
Jonas Parello-Plesner is a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute.

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Chinese military assets in the South China Sea. 


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Vietnamese Anti-China protesters hold placards which read ‘The country will not forget – Johnson South Reef – 14th March, 1988’ during a gathering to mark the 28th anniversary of the Spratly Islands clashes between Vietnam and China at a public park in Hanoi March 14, 2016.


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US imported more seafood in 2017 than any prior year

June 25, 2018

The United States imported more seafood last year than at any point in its history, and the nation’s trade deficit in the sector is growing, federal data show.

The U.S. imported more than 6 billion pounds of seafood valued at more than $21.5 billion in 2017, according to data from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which oversees American fisheries. The country exported more than 3.6 billion pounds valued at about $6 billion.

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The widening gap comes at a time when Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who heads the federal agency that includes NOAA, has identified reducing the deficit as a priority for the government.

The U.S. is home to major commercial fisheries for species such as Pacific salmon, New England lobster and Alaska pollock, but it imports more than 90 percent of the seafood the public consumes.

Ross and others in U.S. fisheries are looking at new strategies to cut the deficit, including increasing the amount of aquaculture-based farming, said Jennie Lyons, a NOAA spokeswoman.

The U.S. trades in seafood with countries all over the world, and the countries it buys the most from include Canada, China and Chile. Major buyers of U.S. seafood include China, Japan and South Korea.

While U.S. fishermen would love to grow commercial fisheries, it’s important to note that domestic and imported seafood are both important parts of the supply chain and support thousands of American jobs, said Gavin Gibbons, spokesman for the National Fisheries Institute.

He added that the trade imbalance isn’t caused by a lack of fish to catch in U.S. waters, as NOAA announced this spring the number of overfished fish stocks in the country is at an all-time low.

“Our stocks are fished to the maximum sustainable yield. In order to feed Americans, and to feed the raw materials into the jobs that are needed, we have to get it from overseas,” Gibbons said.

Some of the seafood items that American consumers are especially fond of, including tuna, salmon and shrimp, are heavily dependent on foreign imports to make it to U.S. markets and restaurants. Some species, such as lobsters, are caught in the U.S., exported to other countries that have greater processing capacity, and return to the U.S. as imports.

In this way, the U.S. and its trade partners depend on each other to satisfy worldwide demand for seafood products, said Geoff Irvine, executive director of the Lobster Council of Canada.

“Our relationship is vital, and it is symbiotic,” he said.

There are also some fish the U.S. has imported more heavily in recent years because domestic stocks have dried up. One example is Atlantic cod, which was once the subject of a huge fishery in New England. That industry has collapsed due to overfishing and environmental changes.

The U.S. imported more than a half billion dollars’ worth of cod in 2017. That number has grown by more than $100 million since 2014, with fish that once came from Massachusetts now coming from places like Iceland and Norway.

Exports of other species, such as lobster, are up because of emerging markets in Asia, said Mike Tourkistas, founder of East Coast Seafood in Topsfield, Massachusetts. Lobster exports have grown by more than $250 million since 2007, driven by growth in China.

“With lobster, we know that we have had some very big years,” Tourkistas said.

The Associated Press

China eyes marine park in South China Sea

March 8, 2018

Philippine Star

Patricia Lourdes Viray ( – March 8, 2018 – 6:31pm

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MANILA, Philippines — In addition to their military facilities in the disputed South China Sea, Beijing is also proposing a national park in the region.

Chinese-run newspaper Global Times reported that China’s top legislature said that a national park in the South China Sea would help preserve marine ecology in the region.

Deng Xiaogang, a deputy of China’s National People’s Congress (NPC), stressed the important of protecting resources, such as coral reefs in the area.

China’s southern Hainan province would be qualified to build the country’s first national marine park and they could learn from the experience from the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, Deng told Global Times.

Wang Changren, another deputy of China’s NPC, said that countries in the region should reach a consensus on preserving marine ecology in the contested waters.

“A national park in the region can improve people’s awareness of the region’s importance, and the South China Sea should be a textbook for marine protection in China,” Wang told Global Times.

In September 2017, China released a plan to build 10 national parks that would focus on protection of pandas, rivers and forests by the end of 2020. None of these, however, included preserving marine life.

Washington-based think tank Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative earlier released a report showing that the marine ecosystem of the South China Sea is seriously threatened by overfishing.

This damage is also brought about by harmful fishing practices, large-scale clam harvesting and dredging for island construction.

“Total fish stocks in the South China Sea have been depleted by 70-95 percent since the 1950s and catch rates have declined by 66-75 percent over the last 20 years,” the AMTI said in its Sept. 13, 2017 report.

“The entire South China Sea fishery, which officially employs around 3.7 million people and helps feed hundreds of millions, is now in danger of collapse unless claimants act urgently to arrest the decline,” it said.


Paul Allen Wants to Use Satellites and Software to Fight Illegal Fishing

October 5, 2017


The Microsoft co-founder is donating $40 million to the effort

By Dina Bass

Paul AllenVulcan

Microsoft Corp. co-founder Paul Allen, concerned about illegal fishing depleting global fish populations, will spend $40 million to develop a system that uses satellite imagery and data-analysis software to help countries spot and catch unlicensed fishing boats.

Called SkyLight, the system is being tested in the Pacific Island of Palau and the African nation of Gabon. Allen is trying to use technology to aid enforcement, particularly in countries with thousands of miles of coastline to patrol and few resources to do so. Allen will announce the initiative at the Our Oceans Conference in Malta on Friday.

Illegal fishing accounts for about 20 percent of the world’s catch, costing up to $23.5 billion a year, according to the World Wildlife Foundation, and placing additional stress on a wild fish population that has declined by about half since 1970. Overfishing raises the risk of conflict among fishing nations and raises the risk of hunger and joblessness in an industry that provides employment for more than 1 in 10 of the world’s people. Allen, an avid diver, has backed other ocean health projects and is also active in conservation efforts like trying to save the African elephant population  by using drones and sensors to track their movements.

“The stakes are high and the threat is real,” said Dave Stewart, general counsel and head of government affairs for Allen’s Vulcan Inc. “Very few countries have access to timely, actionable intelligence and technology to address this issue. We are developing an illegal fishing intelligence network that will bring this to them.”

About 90 percent of the world’s fishing grounds are being harvested at or beyond sustainable limits. Some species, such as the southern bluefin tuna, are threatened with extinction. Shrinking supplies off the central and western coast of Africa have raised concerns about future food shortages there. In the Mediterranean and Black seas, catches have fallen by a third since 2007.

SkyLight, which will be broadly available in the first half of next year, takes multiple data sources from satellite images, to shipping records to information manually collected by officials standing on docks, and uses machine learning software to track and predict which vessels might be operating illegally. Over time, Vulcan is building its own database of all the boats it tracks. That allows countries to better focus limited resources. Some of the countries impacted have “one enforcement boat that goes out once a month if they have gas money,” he said.

Along with the tracking network, countries will also get access to Vulcan’s in-house scientists and business analysts, who will help advise them on how to make the best decisions about fishery management, the number of fishing licenses issued and appropriate penalties for illegal fishing

The service is cloud-based and will enable different countries to communicate and share information as boats move from one country’s waters to the next, a challenge currently. Allen’s donation will cover the cost of setting up the service and starting with the initial countries. Vulcan is charging participating countries for using SkyLight but plans to use the funds to expand and sustain the program rather than as a money maker, Stewart said.

Distrust of China increases in latest Pulse Asia poll

May 2, 2017
In this Thursday, Oct. 20, 2016 photo, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and Chinese President Xi Jinping attend a signing ceremony in Beijing. AP/Ng Han Guan, Pool, File

MANILA, Philippines – Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s friendliness towards China, more Filipinos said in a survey that they do not trust the country.

Pulse Asia released its latest poll on “awareness and trust ratings of selected countries and international organizations” on Tuesday. China ranked lowest in the survey conducted in March, with 63 percent of respondents saying they distrust China. This was two points lower compared to ratings in December 2016.

China’s trust rating in March was 37 percent, lowest among eight nations and organizations included in the survey conducted from March 15 to 20.

READ: Duterte hesitant on US visit, warm on China

Russia, the world’s largest nation, had improved ratings. Its distrust and trust ratings were at 36 and 42 percent, respectively.

More trust

The United States of America, meanwhile, remained the most trusted nation among Filipinos, according to 1,200 adult respondents of the quarterly survey.

The long-time ally of the Philippines enjoyed a 79 percent trust rating and a three-point decrease in its distrust rating to 20 percent.

Japan’s trust rating surged by five points to 75 percent, while new entry Australia obtained 69 percent.

A 14-point swell in its rating showed that Filipinos trust Great Britain/United Kingdom more at 53 percent.

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Philippines’ Rodrigo Duterte visits Chinese warships in his home town, Davao city, southern Philippines May 1, 2017. (Reuters)

The United Nations and Association of Southeast Asian Nations received trust ratings of 82 and 81 percent, respectively.

Incidentally, the two nations most distrusted by respondents are the countries with whom Duterte seeks to strengthen diplomatic ties.

Duterte’s treatment of China, especially in relation to the dispute in the West Philippine Sea, has earned the president criticism from those who want the Philippines to insist on a UN-backed arbitral ruling saying China’s nine-dash-line claim over the South China Sea has no legal basis.  He has said he will bring up the ruling at some point.

Over the weekend, US President Donald Trump invited Duterte to the White House, but the Philippine president said he may have to turn down the offer because of prior commitments. Duterte has long been critical of the US for its supposed meddling in Philippine domestic affairs.

Philippines: Trust in China Falling Among Filipinos in New Pulse Asia Poll

May 2, 2017

MANILA, Philippines –   The United States is the nation most trusted by Filipinos – and China the least, based on a Pulse Asia survey conducted from March 15 to 20.

The poll showed trust level for the US at 79 percent; Japan, 75 percent; Australia and Great Britain, 69 percent and 53 percent, respectively.

Only four in 10 have trust in Russia and China – at 42 percent and 37 percent, respectively.

President Duterte has established stronger relations with China and Russia while expressing dismay at the US for the latter’s critical stand on his war on drugs.

“That’s par for the course. After all these years we’ve been programmed to think that these are the enemies,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said referring to China and Russia, in reaction to the survey result.

“The President is breaking free as a disruptor so… it’s par for the course,” he added.

In the survey, 63 percent of respondents said they could not trust China and 56 percent voiced the same opinion of Russia.

The United Nations and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) also enjoy the trust of most of the respondents at 82 percent and 81 percent, respectively.

A majority of Filipinos across all geographic areas and socio-economic classes expressed trust in the US (75 percent to 88 percent and 72 percent to 80 percent, respectively), Japan (71 percent to 81 percent and 71 percent to 79 percent, respectively), Australia (67 percent to 75 percent and 68 percent to 74 percent, respectively), the UN (77 percent to 84 percent and 77 percent to 82 percent, respectively) and the ASEAN (73 percent to 83 percent and 78 percent to 82 percent, respectively).

Great Britain registered majority trust ratings in most geographic areas and socio-economic groupings (52 percent to 62 percent and 55 percent to 56 percent, respectively), with the exception of the Visayas at 48 percent, and Class E at 44 percent.

As for China, distrust is the prevailing sentiment in every geographic area and socio-economic class (53 percent to 70 percent and 63 percent to 69 percent, respectively).

Russia also registered majority distrust ratings in the rest of Luzon (60 percent), the Visayas (62 percent) and all socio-economic classes (54 percent to 61 percent), while posting a bare majority trust score (51 percent) in Metro Manila and Mindanao.

According to Pulse Asia, the only significant changes in public opinion on the survey topic between December 2016 and March 2017 were the 14-point increase in the level of trust for Great Britain and the drop in the level of distrust for the same country (-11 percentage points) and the eight-point rise in the level of trust in the UN and the decline in the level of distrust for the same organization (-8 percentage points).

The survey used face-to-face interviews with 1,200 adults.

It has a plus or minus three percentage points error margin at the 95 percent confidence level. – With Christina Mendez


 (The authors say, China prefers places with lots of poverty and corruption and not too much interest in rule of law or human rights…)


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On July 12, 2016 a ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague said China’s nine-dash line claim (shown above) was invalid and not recognized in international law.

Philippines Policy on Fisheries, Impending Fisheries Crisis Inadequate To Defend Filipino Jobs, Environment, Food Security and Philippine Economy

April 24, 2017
In this image taken from video run by China’s CCTV via AP Video, the aircraft carrier Liaoning is escorted by navy ships during a drill in the South China Sea. China confirmed that its aircraft carrier has for the first time conducted drills in the South China Sea with a formation of other warships and fighter jets, a move that could raise concerns among its neighbors. CCTV via AP Video

ASEAN’s leaders will gather in Manila next week for the 30th ASEAN Summit. While the leaders and diplomats forge stronger bonds of friendship, those of us watching can only hope that the summit and other scheduled meetings will help to move the region concretely forward.

At the top of everyone’s mind is the South China Sea: What does the Philippines want to achieve with ASEAN and with the dialogue partners this year? What’s slated for the framework for the code of conduct? Will this framework even proceed to a binding and enforceable code? How will we achieve our aims in line with our commitments in upholding international law?

The Philippines is no stranger to the difficulties in the South China Sea, and has even been at the forefront of these challenges. More pressingly, the challenge has evolved: Chinese vessels loiter in Benham Rise, construction on Scarborough Shoal is a looming possibility and reports are emerging that Chinese Coast Guard vessels fired shots at Filipino fishermen in the Spratlys. How long can Southeast Asian governments paper over these difficulties in the name of friendly ties?

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Fishermen sort the catch in the South China Sea

At this stage, there are more questions than there are answers. For this reason, the Stratbase ADR Institute (ADRi) will host a forum on April 25 entitled “The South China Sea: the Philippines, ASEAN and their international partners.” In our view, the Philippines should not lose sight of its a unique opportunity to shine a spotlight on Southeast Asia’s pressing political and security challenges.

Converging on the fisheries

One of the under-examined issues concerning the West Philippine Sea is fisheries management. Fish and fisheries remain crucial to food security, livelihoods and export revenue to over about 2 billion inhabitants of the region. However, the overlapping territorial and maritime sovereignty claims among the coastal states continue hinder efforts to establish sustainable mechanisms for fisheries management, as well as curb illegal and unsustainable fishing practices.

As the Philippines assumes chairmanship of ASEAN 2017, one of the goals is to translate its legal victory from the arbitral tribunal into workable policies that address the impending fisheries crisis not only on the national but also on the regional level. For an ADRi special study entitled “Converging on the Fisheries in the South China Sea,” Dr. Carmen Lagman of DLSU has analyzed the fisheries production-consumption patterns and transboundary management mechanisms, and proposed a path forward for the ASEAN coastal states to enhance fisheries management in the name of food security.

The value of the South China Sea to food and job security

Lagman explains the vitality of the South China Sea as a source of food and livelihoods. In 2015, a conservative estimate based on reported fisheries landings in the sea is about 12 percent of the total global catch. With the exception of Brunei Darussalam, all the other countries in the South China Sea are in the top 20 countries with the highest recorded fisheries catch in 2014.

The sea could potentially yield 11 to 17 million tons in trade fisheries catch and US$ 12 to 22 billion in annual fisheries landed value. This translates to over 3 million jobs associated with the fisheries. In fact, based on these values of the landed fisheries in 2012, total economic activity in the broader economy supported by fishing is estimated at US$ 66.7 billion.

Unsustainability of local fishing practices

However, the indispensable value of the sea is imperiled by unsustainable practices of small and large-scale industrial fisheries sector. Usually, commercial boats encroach into the so-called traditional fishing areas of small-scale fishermen, using trawls, ring nets and purse seins, which practically harvest all organisms within the site of operations. As a result, small-scale fishermen usually complain of losing income while environmentalists point out to the irreversible damage that such commercial fishing tools and methods bring to the environment.

Moreover, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) provisions for defining an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) have tremendously influenced the structure of fisheries policies in national and international arenas. It had the profound effects of: raising the contribution of fisheries to the national gross domestic product or GDP; bringing about a redistribution of benefits from fishing from distant water fishing fleets to the coastal states; and attracting greater investments into the fisheries sector.

Though total fisheries catch appears to be steadily increasing, there have already been differences in the quality of fish. Large predatory fish such as tuna and grouper are found less. They are increasingly being replaced by smaller fish that feed on zooplankton. This phenomenon dubbed as “fishing down the food web” reflects a dangerous, continuing trend of overfishing. Notably, pelagic fish stocks in East Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and southern China have been subject to overfishing since the late 1980s. No wonder their fishermen venture into the West Philippine Sea where productivity has not dwindled.

A way forward for the Philippines and Southeast Asia

Having won the case in the arbitral tribunal, the Philippines may seize the opportunity to promote the country’s fisheries management policy, and synergize its conservation efforts with those of its neighbors. Lagman proposes the following: the establishment of transboundary marine parks or areas of joint protection which seeks to declare the remaining healthy, resource-rich areas and habitats as “no-take zones” such as the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Shoal; inclusion of other international policy instruments, such as the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Reykjavik Declaration (2001), FAO Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries (1995), and World Summit on Sustainable Development (2002); and Agenda 21 (1992) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (1992), aimed at encouraging regional cooperation on fisheries management in the South China Sea in our diplomatic efforts; and development of regional-level policies targeted toward small-scale fisheries.


Fisheries and other marine areas could be a starting point for greater technical cooperation between the Philippines and its neighbors. In these times, all cooperative options should be studied and exhausted. In the process, we must take advantage of our scientific knowhow to look at the dispute management (even if not resolution) in a creative and fresh light.

We are looking for concrete ways to use our knowledge of the law and the environment to help bridge the political problems that keep the Philippines from fully and sustainably exploiting its resources. These options will be for naught, however, if the Philippines does not demonstrate its principled commitment to the rule of law and show its leadership in ASEAN this year. 

Dindo Manhit is the president of think tank Stratbase Albert del Rosario Institute, a partner of


Japan to exceed bluefin tuna quota amid warnings of commercial extinction

Conservationists call on Japan to abide by fishing agreements after reports annual quota will be exceeded two months early

 .Buyers inspect frozen tuna at a wholesale fish market in Tokyo
Buyers inspect frozen tuna at a wholesale fish market in Tokyo. Photograph: Aflo/Barcroft Images

Conservation groups have called on Japan to abide by international agreements to curb catches of Pacific bluefin tuna after reports said the country was poised to exceed an annual quota two months early – adding to pressure on stocks that have already reached dangerously low levels.

Japan, by far the world’s biggest consumer of Pacific bluefin, has caused “great frustration” with its failure to abide by catch quotas intended to save the species from commercial extinction, said Amanda Nickson, the director of global tuna conservation at Pew Charitable Trusts.

“Just a few years of overfishing will leave Pacific bluefin tuna vulnerable to devastating population reductions,” Nickson said in Tokyo on Monday. “That will threaten not just the fish but also the fishermen who depend on them.”

Decades of overfishing have left the Pacific bluefin population at just 2.6% of its historical high, and campaigners say Japan must take the lead at a summit in South Korea this summer.

In 2015, Japan and other members of the Western & Central Pacific Fisheries Commission agreed to curtail catches of immature bluefin, halving the catch of fish under 30kg from the average caught between 2002 and 2004.

But Japanese media reported last week that the country would reach its catch limit for younger tuna for the year through to June two months early.

Some fisheries workers have ignored the restrictions, aware that they will not be punished and can fetch premium prices for Pacific bluefin in Japan, where it is regarded as an important part of the country’s culinary heritage.

Campaigners support the fisheries commission’s aim of rebuilding stocks to at least 20% of unfished levels by 2034 – a target Nickson said was “realistic and attainable”. She said further inaction could revive calls for a two-year commercial moratorium on catching Pacific bluefin.

“No country in the world cares more about the future of tuna than Japan,” she said. “Japan can take the lead, but it must start by committing itself to the 20% rebuilding plan.”

If that fails, she added, “then a full commercial moratorium could be the only feasible course of action”.

Aiko Yamauchi, the leader of the oceans and seafood group for WWF Japan, said it was time to penalise fishermen who violated catch quotas. “The quotas should be mandatory, not voluntary,” Yamauchi said. “That’s why the current agreement hasn’t worked.”

About 80% of the global bluefin catch is consumed in Japan, where it is served raw as sashimi and sushi. A piece of otoro – a fatty cut from the fish’s underbelly – can cost several thousand yen at high-end restaurants in Tokyo.



 (Philippine Star)

 — From March 25, 2017 with links to other related articles


 (National Geographic on the South China Sea)