Posts Tagged ‘overfishing’

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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https://www.the-american-interest.com/2018/07/03/will-the-south-china-sea-become-a-chinese-lake/
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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.

REUTERS/KHAM

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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 (philstar.com) – 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.

Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2018/03/08/1794829/china-eyes-marine-park-south-china-sea#MbmrSu5ohuByXSlT.99

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

October 5, 2017

Bloomberg

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.

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-10-05/paul-allen-wants-to-use-satellites-and-software-to-fight-illegal-fishing

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.

http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2017/05/02/1696007/distrust-china-increases-latest-pulse-asia-poll

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

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 (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.

Conclusion

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 Philstar.com.

http://www.philstar.com/news-feature/2017/04/21/1692488/commentary-challenges-ahead-south-china-sea

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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.

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/24/japan-criticised-exceed-bluefin-tuna-fishing-quota

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 (Philippine Star)

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

 

 (National Geographic on the South China Sea)

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South China Sea: One of the World’s Biggest Fisheries Is on the Verge of Collapse

March 26, 2017

South China Sea’s most important resource – its fish – is disappearing

Major disputes in the South China Sea are putting critical habitat—and the food supply of millions—at risk.

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Dock workers use cranes to off-load frozen tuna from a Chinese-owned cargo vessel at the General Santos Fish Port, in the Philippines. Tuna stocks in the South China Sea have plummeted in recent years because of overfishing. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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By Rachael Bale
National Geographic
PUBLISHED AUGUST 29, 2016

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PUERTO PRINCESA, PHILIPPINES — Years ago Christopher Tubo caught a 660-pound blue marlin in the South China Sea. The fishing was good there, he says. Tuna fishermen would come home from a trip with dozens of the high-value fish as well as a good haul of other species.

“Here there’s none of that,” he says, looking toward the Sulu Sea, the Philippine sea where he’s been fishing for the past four years. His two boats, traditional Filipino outriggers called bancas, float in the shallow water nearby, new coats of white paint drying in the sun.

Tubo is sitting on a wooden bench in front of his home, which perches on stilts above the bay. One of his four kids wraps an arm around his leg. Worn T-shirts and shorts flutter on clotheslines behind them.

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A worker carries a line-caught yellowfin tuna at the General Santos Fish Port, which is known as the “tuna capital of the Philippines.” The South China Sea, through which tuna migrate, produces more fish than almost anywhere else, but it has been severely overfished and is nearing collapse. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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Glancing over at his wife, Leah, and the other children, he says, “It’s just chance, whether or not we can feed our families now.”

Tubo lives in Puerto Princesa, a city of 255,000 on Palawan, a long finger of an island that faces the Sulu Sea and the Philippine archipelago to the east and the contested South China Sea to the west. He’s one of the nearly 320,000 fishermen in the Philippines who have traditionally made their livelihoods from the South China Sea—and one of a growing number who are now fishing in other waters because of increasing Chinese interference. Beginning around 2012, China adopted a more assertive posture in the sea’s long-running territorial dispute, building military installations on contested islands and increasingly using its coast guard to intimidate fishermen from other countries.

It was after a Chinese coast guard vessel attacked a friend’s fishing boat with water cannons that Christopher Tubo stopped fishing the South China Sea.

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Filipino fishermen aboard the Ninay haul in sardines and scad in national waters near the South China Sea. The territorial and maritime disputes in the South China Sea have increased competition for dwindling fish stocks of all species.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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“One minute you’ll see an airplane, the next thing there’s a naval boat,” he says, describing how the Chinese attempt to keep fishermen from other countries out of the disputed area. “If we kept going over there, maybe we won’t be able to go home to our families.”

“As they see it, it’s theirs now, and Filipinos are forbidden,” says Henry Tesorio, an elected councilor for a fishing village in Puerto Princesa.

Vietnamese fishermen could say the same thing. Some 200 Vietnamese from the island of Ly Son, 15 miles (24 kilometers) off the mainland, reported being attacked by Chinese boats in 2015, according to local Vietnamese government officials.

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The lights on the Melissa attract fish toward the boat and up to the surface. A storm later forced the boat to return to Quezon, a fishing village on the island of Palawan, in the Philippines. Fishermen from the Philippines, China, Vietnam, Taiwan, and elsewhere all fish the South China Sea.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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Tubo’s decision not to fish in the South China Sea speaks to the rising tensions in the region, which are causing fierce competition for natural resources. Encompassing 1.4 million square miles (3.7 million square kilometers), the South China Sea is of critical economic, military, and environmental importance: $5.3 trillion in international trade plies its waters annually; in terms of biodiversity, it is thought of as the marine equivalent of the Amazon rain forest; and its fish provide food and jobs for millions in the 10 countries and territories that surround it.

Of those, seven—China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia—have competing claims to the sea’s waters and resources. So it’s understandable why all eyes have been focused on the political and military wrangling. If war broke out over these claims, it would pit two superpowers, China and the United States—a longtime Philippine ally and guarantor of freedom of navigation in the Pacific Ocean—against each other.

South China Sea map. Credit Center for Strategic and International Studies

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But another less publicized, also potentially disastrous, threat looms in the South China Sea: overfishing. This is one of the world’s most important fisheries, employing more than 3.7 million people and bringing in billions of dollars every year. But after decades of free-for-all fishing, dwindling stocks now threaten both the food security and economic growth of the rapidly developing nations that draw on them.

China argues that it has a right to almost the entire South China Sea because it says it has historically exercised jurisdiction in that area, which China delineates on maps with a U-shaped “nine-dash” line (see map). Every other disputant in the South China Sea, including the Philippines, bases its maritime claims on the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, an international agreement that defines maritime zones.

Opposing Beijing’s expansionist claims, in 2013 the Philippines brought a case against China before an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court of Arbitration—a forum for settling international disputes—in The Hague, Netherlands. China refused to participate. On July 12, the tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines on almost all its claims, declaring that China forfeited the possibility of any historically based rights when it ratified the UN convention in 1996. China has vowed to ignore the ruling.

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Crew members take shelter from a storm aboard the Ninay. Filipino fishermen have reported increasing interference from Chinese coast guard vessels in the South China Sea. China claims most of the South China Sea for itself.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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Competition for fish has exacerbated the dispute, and the dispute has intensified competition among fishermen, further depleting fish. Some parts of the South China Sea have less than a tenth of the stocks they had five decades ago. And high-value fish such as tuna and grouper are becoming scarcer.

“What we’re looking at is potentially one of the world’s worst fisheries collapses ever,” says John McManus, a marine biologist at the Rosenstiel School at the University of Miami who studies the region’s reefs.

.“We’re talking hundreds and hundreds of species that will collapse, and they’ll collapse relatively quickly, one after another.”

MONICA SERRANO, NG STAFF
SOURCES: COUNCIL ON FOREIGN RELATIONS; U.S. ENERGY INFORMATION ADMINISTRATION;
OCEANASIA 2015, REPORTED AND ESTIMATED UNREPORTED CATCHES; RANDALL AND LIM, 2000; CENTER FOR STRATEGIC AND INTERNATIONAL STUDIES

Fishermen on the Front Lines

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As coastal waters are depleted, fishermen have been forced to venture farther offshore and into disputed waters to make a living. China has seized this as an opportunity to bolster its claims by aggressively supporting its fishermen. Beijing has consolidated the coast guard, militarized fishing fleets, and begun offering subsidies for bigger and better boats, water, and fuel. There’s even a special subsidy specifically for fishermen to fish in the contested Spratly Islands, more than 500 miles (800 kilometers) to the south.

“The only reason that smaller [Chinese] fishermen go out to the Spratlys is because they’re paid to do so,” says Gregory Poling, the director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, at the Washington, D.C.-based think tank, the Center for Strategic Studies. This extra pressure has sped up the depletion of fish stocks, he says.

The Chinese have also been building artificial islands atop reefs in the Spratlys to support military installations there. “Possession is nine-tenths of the law,” says Zachary Abuza, an expert on Southeast Asian politics and maritime security at the National War College, in Washington, D.C. “China is trying to enforce its sovereignty through the construction of these islands and by denying other countries access to natural resources.”

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A couple sits outside a home built over the water in Quezon, where most people have family members who work as fishermen. Overfishing has put the livelihoods of many Filipinos at risk. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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Eugenio Bito-onon, Jr.—until recently the mayor of the Kalayaan municipality, which includes islands in the Spratlys—is an outspoken advocate for the Philippines’ claims. Bito-onon and I met in the island’s cramped satellite office in Puerto Princesa, where he had a gigantic map of the South China Sea marked up with his own handwritten labels and colored dots showing which countries claim which features.

He pulls up Google Earth on his laptop and finds Thitu, an island in the Spratlys known locally as Pag-asa, where about 200 Filipinos, including a small number of troops, live part-time, their presence demonstrating the Philippines’ claim to the island. Rice, clothing, soap, and other necessities must be brought in by boat or airlift, and two government-owned generators are the only source of electricity. Bito-onon points out just how close Chinese-claimed Subi Reef is to Thitu. So close, he says, that on a clear day residents can see it on the horizon.

Even closer, though, are Chinese fishing boats, which he says have fished the reefs empty. “For the past three years, [the Chinese] never leave,” Bito-onon says from behind his laptop, now displaying satellite imagery of reefs around Thitu. “Chinese fishing boats come and go, replacing each other,” he says, but there are never not boats within sight of the island.

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A Filipino fisherman wades from boat to shore with part of the crew’s catch. Fishermen who go to the South China Sea report that their catches have gotten smaller in recent years. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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The Navotas Fish Port in Manila is the largest in the Philippines. The markets at the port trade in seafood from freshwater farms, national waters, and international waters, including the South China Sea. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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Gilbert Elefane, the Filipino captain of a tuna boat based in the municipality of Quezon, on Palawan, says he now sees up to a hundred boats, many Chinese, on a single two-week fishing trip in the South China Sea. Just a few years ago, he says he’d have seen no more than 30.

Beijing has provided military training and sophisticated GPS and communications technology to its fishermen so they can call in the coast guard if they have a run-in with a foreign law enforcement vessel or alert the coast guard of the presence of fishermen from other countries.

In the face of China’s island building, Vietnam has done some small-scale land reclamation of its own in an attempt to bolster its capacity in the Spratlys. Its efforts, however, have been less destructive than China’s.

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A dock worker uses a mallet to dislodge frozen tuna aboard a Chinese cargo vessel docked at the city of General Santos in the Philippines. The cargo vessel spends up to two months at sea with a fleet of a dozen tuna boats working to fill its freezer. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

As long as the conflict in the South China Sea continues, it will be nearly impossible to regulate fishing.

When one country tries to protect its fishing grounds, tensions flare. In March, for instance, Indonesian maritime law enforcement officials arrested eight Chinese on charges of illegal fishing. The fishermen were less than three miles (five kilometers) from Indonesia’s Natuna Islands. The Natunas themselves are not in dispute, but the waters north of them, which are particularly rich in gas, have become a new flashpoint. Under international law they’re Indonesian, but they partially overlap with China’s nine-dash line claims, so China says it has a right to fish there.

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A pregnant woman wades in the dirty water near the Navotas Fish Port. The Philippines’ economy relies heavily on fishing and the seafood trade, as do most of the countries around the South China Sea. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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When Indonesia’s vessel began towing the Chinese boat back to port, an armed Chinese coast guard ship appeared and began ramming the Chinese boat to break it free. The Indonesians were forced to let the boat go and retreat.

“It’s unclear whose laws you’re enforcing when you have seven overlapping sets of fisheries laws,” Poling says. “States have a vested interest in purposely violating fishing laws of other states.”

That’s because abiding by another country’s fishing law is tantamount to accepting that that country has jurisdiction over that region, which no country has been willing to do.

In 2012, a Philippine navy warship attempted to arrest Chinese fishermen at Scarborough Shoal, about 138 miles (220 kilometers) from the Philippine coast, on suspicion of illegal fishing and poaching rare corals, giant clams, and sharks. A Chinese coast guard ship interfered to prevent the arrests, forcing a standoff. After 10 weeks both sides agreed to withdraw, but once the Philippines left, China remained, effectively seizing control of the shoal.

Image may contain: one or more people, sky, ocean, cloud, outdoor, water and nature
A fisherman at the General Santos Fish Port carries a yellowfin tuna caught in the South China Sea. Fishermen say the fish they catch now are smaller than before.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

 

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Workers at the Navotas Fish Port unload and sort fish from commercial boats that have returned from the South China Sea, where overfishing has exacerbated the land and sea disputes in the region. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

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As Filipino fishermen have seen their catches—and the fish themselves—getting smaller, they’ve increasingly been resorting to dangerous, illegal fishing methods. Blast fishing, which Filipinos call “bong bong” fishing, involves setting off homemade bombs underwater to kill dozens of fish at one time. Cyanide fishing, which involves squirting fish in the face with poison to stun them, is used to catch live reef fish to supply high-end live seafood restaurants in Hong Kong and other large Asian cities. Both practices kill coral and other fish, collateral damage that’s pushing the sea ever closer to an overfishing crisis.

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Dock workers at the Navotas Fish Port sort through mussels. If the South China Sea fishery were to collapse, it would threaten the food supply of millions. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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China’s island building and giant clam poaching have caused most of them documented reef destruction in the South China Sea, an area totaling 62 square miles (163 square kilometers). Island building grinds up corals for use as foundation material, smothers reefs that become the base of islands, and creates sediment plumes that suffocate nearby reefs. Dredging to deepen ports also causes serious damage. And poaching of giant clams entails grinding up corals to loosen the shells from the reef.

“It’s quite possible we’re seeing a serious decline in about half of the reefs,” John McManus, the marine biologist, says. “That’s what I expect will happen, if it hasn’t happened already. It’s just total destruction.”

When a reef is destroyed, the ecosystem unravels. Reef fish lose their habitat, and pelagic fish such as tuna lose an important source of food. Furthermore, reefs in the South China Sea are connected. Fish larvae from one reef ride the current across the sea to repopulate another reef. If a reef disappears, so does that source of larvae, increasing the chance that local extirpations of fish species will be permanent.

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Dock workers and fishermen buy food from a street vendor at the Navotas Fish Port, in Manila. Some 320,000 Filipinos fish the South China Sea, and many more work on the docks, as fish packers, and as seafood traders, among other jobs.  Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic

McManus says that many of the damaged reefs will be able to recover in a decade or two—if the island building and destructive giant clam poaching stop. He champions the idea of a “peace park,” a kind of marine protected area where all countries would put a freeze on their claims and halt all activities, like island building, that bolster those claims.

Experts also say cooperative regional management could go a long way toward making the South China Sea fishery sustainable. It would require dramatic cutbacks in the number of fishing boats and restrictions on fishing methods such as the use of huge fishing vessels that use powerful lights at night to attract tuna. All this would in turn mean helping fishermen find other ways to earn a living.

Under a sustainable management plan, tuna and mackerel could recover 17-fold by 2045, Rashid Sumaila and William Cheung at the University of British Columbia predicted in a 2015 report. Reef fish would recover up to 15 percent, and the catch and value of reef fish would also increase. Sharks and groupers, which are also high-value fish, would make a comeback too.

But Poling, of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, questions whether such a plan will happen in time. “What that requires is setting aside the disputes,” he says. “It’s possible—it’s just not likely. In order to have a successful joint management system, the first step is to agree on what area you’re talking about.” With China clinging to its nine-dash line while other countries base their claims on international law, agreement just won’t be possible, he says.

As it now stands, the South China Sea’s most important resource—its fish—is disappearing, and countries are either passively standing by or actively encouraging their fishermen to take more.

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Children fish at dusk in the fishing community of Quezon in the Philippines. Fishermen here ply their trade in national waters and the South China Sea. Credit Adam Dean, National Geographic
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Aurora Almendral contributed to this report.

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Coming Tuesday: China’s giant clam poaching is decimating reefs in the South China Sea.

Follow Rachael Bale on Twitter.

This story was produced by National Geographic’s Special Investigations Unit, which focuses on wildlife crime and is made possible by grants from the BAND Foundation and the Woodtiger Fund. Read more stories from the SIU on Wildlife Watch. Send tips, feedback, and story ideas to ngwildlife@ngs.org.

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/2016/08/wildlife-south-china-sea-overfishing-threatens-collapse/

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

National Geographic:

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A China Coast Guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a stand off as the Philippine boat attempts to reach the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea a reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jay Directo )

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A Vietnamese fisherman repairs his vessel after it was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship that it protecting the waters around a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (PhoBolsaTV.com)

A Vietnamese fisherman repairs his vessel after it was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship that it protecting the waters around a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (PhoBolsaTV.com)

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

Vietnamese fishing boat Captain Tran Van Quang

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

 

Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea

Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city, the Philippines, to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea

 

 (This    article has links to several  others related to environmental issues in the South China Sea).

A green sea turtle is seen off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

A green sea turtle.(Reuters)

 (Includes Obama creates largest ocean reserve, takes heat for new federal decrees)

 (Has links to many related conservation and environmental articles)

 (Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports)

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and outdoor

Filipino activists and Vietnamese nationals display placards and chant anti-China slogans as they march outside the Chinese Consulate in Manila’s Makati financial district on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on Friday, May 16, 2014, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. — PHOTO: REUTERS

 

 (August 25, 2016)

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China’s Tian Jing Hao – Cutter suction dredger — Used to destroy South China Sea coral reefs to provide dredge material for new man made- islands — an environmental disaster

 (Contains links to several related articles)

August 17, 2015

ANOTHER set of a dredge floater assembly with Chinese markings found in the Zambales sea is pulled to the shore of the capital town of Iba on Sunday. The first set of dredge floaters was found by local fishermen off Cabangan, Zambales province, in July. ALLAN MACATUNO/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

 

 

An elderly Vietnamese protester holds a placard during an anti-China protest in front of the Chinese consulate in the financial district of Manila on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on May 16, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. Many Vietnamese remain uneasy with China in the South china sea till this day.  AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

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The End of an era?  Fishermen work to unload a net full of anchovies during a fishing expedition in the Pacific Ocean. Photo AP

 

 

Chinese moving to dominate the South China Sea — An emerging environmental disaster has gone largely unnoticed

March 26, 2017

A sea in peril

While rival claimants jockey for strategic position in the South China Sea, an emerging environmental disaster has gone largely unnoticed

MARCH 25, 2017

China will soon host a dialogue with Southeast Asian nations aimed at managing tensions in the South China Sea. But it’s not clear whether the talks will help to save a marine environment that in parts is facing collapse.

While diplomats discuss the implementation of a code of conduct for rival claimants in the vast waterway, scientists say that the region’s marine environment also deserves attention, partly because overfishing on all sides is depleting fish stocks.

Chinese fishermen in search of valuable giant clams have destroyed vital coral reefs on a vast scale, although that practice now appears to be slowing.

Rachael Bale of National Geographic, who has written extensively on the South China Sea, aptly summed up the situation early this year, saying that “While politicians argue over which country controls the region, the fishery … is on the brink of collapse.”

Fishermen unload baskets of fish as they dock their boats at a port under the alert of Typhoon Kalmaegi, in Sanya, Hainan province September 14, 2014. China's marine forecast station issued a yellow alert as typhoon Kalmaegi is expected to enter the South China Sea on Monday morning, Xinhua News Agency reported. REUTERS/Stringer (CHINA - Tags: ENVIRONMENT AGRICULTURE) CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA - RTR464V0

Overfished: Fishermen unload their catch in Hainan province, China. Photo: Reuters

According to The Nature Conservancy, overfishing is a common problem around the world. Maria Damanaki, global managing director for oceans at the Conservancy, explains that “when too few individual fish of breeding age remain, they simply don’t produce well …”

It is what she describes as “a lose-lose situation for both fishermen and conservationists.” The stakes are particularly high in the case of the South China Sea.

High stakes

Occupying more than 3.5 million square kilometers, the South China Sea is one of the world’s five leading fishing zones, according to researchers at the University of British Columbia.

The fishery employs more than 3 million people, contributes heavily to the global fish trade and provides a major source of vital protein to millions of people living in the nations that depend on it.

In addition, experts believe that huge reserves of oil and gas lie unexploited beneath the disputed waters.

Fishing boats are seen anchored in a bay as Typhoon Chan-Hom approaches southern China, in Wenling, Zhejiang province, July 8, 2015. Chinese authorities have suspended train services, closed schools and bought trawlers back to port before two typhoons in the south and east of the country make landfall later this week, state media said. Picture taken July 8, 2015. REUTERS/William Hong CHINA OUT. NO COMMERCIAL OR EDITORIAL SALES IN CHINA - RTX1JNFJ

Seafaring: Chinese fishing boats anchored in the bay. Photo: Reuters/William Hong

US Air Force Captain Adam Greer, who has done research partly funded by the National Defense University, says that the stakes in the South China Sea can be summed up by a “3 P’s rule”—politics, petroleum, and protein.

In an article published in The Diplomat, Greer argues that the protein derived from fish may be the most important factor driving competition in the South China Sea.

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The best news for the environment, one leading American scientist says, was a Chinese decision early this year to enforce regulations calling for a halt to the harvesting and processing by Chinese fishermen of giant clams in the South China Sea.

John McManus, a professor of marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami, said that the decision, announced by China’s southern Hainan province, could mark a major step toward helping to preserve and restore a vital part of the marine environment.

The giant clams are embedded in coral reefs that protect small fish from predators. The coral reefs also play a role in replenishing fish stocks.

This picture taken on July 19, 2013 shows giant clams on display in Tanmen, in China's southern Hainan Province. CHINA OUT AFP PHOTO / AFP PHOTO / STR

In demand: Giant clams for sale in China’s southern Hainan Province. Photo: AFP

According to McManus, Chinese poachers using boat propellers to dig up reefs and uncover the clams have caused widespread damage to many of the reefs. Chinese dredging aimed at gathering sand and gravel to build artificial islands has caused further serious damage.

The highly valued shells of the clams have been carved much like elephant ivory into intricate ornaments for sale to Chinese tourists visiting Hainan Island. Some Chinese regard the meat from the clams as a rare delicacy and an aphrodisiac.

Gregory Poling, director of the Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative at the Washington DC-based Center for Strategic and International Studies believes that the biggest factor in reducing the giant clam shell trade may be Chinese President Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign.

“As the crackdown on corruption has spread, people are understandably hesitant to accept jewelry or statues made from poached giant clams,” Poling said.

Products made from giant clam shells are displayed inside a store in the seaside town of Tanmen in China's Hainan province May 10, 2016. Picture taken May 10, 2016. REUTERS/Farah Master - RTX2IKU7

Shiny wears: Products made from giant clam shells at Tanmen town in China’s Hainan province. Photo: Reuters/Farah Master

Zhang Hongzhou, a research fellow at the Nanyang Technological University of Singapore, says that it appears the crackdown on the giant clam trade has been “very decisive, at least as of now.”

The local government on Hainan Island, he says, also intends to promote “fishing tourism” as an alternative source of income for the local fishermen.

But Zhang says that he sees some evidence that the price for giant clams is rising, which could lead to an underground trade that spurs illegal harvesting.

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Coral rubble remains after Chinese “chopper” boats killed branching corals, which were subsequently further broken up by  blast fishing.  John McManus/Rosenstiel School, University of Miami

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Dr. John McManus, professor of Marine Biology and Fisheries at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science

The various nations involved in the South China Sea, including China, have laws aimed at preserving the marine environment. But the problem so far has been a lack of implementation.

Talks bring hope

China’s recent negotiations with Vietnam have offered another source of hope. During a recent visit to Beijing, Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnam’s Communist Party General Secretary, signed 15 agreements dealing, among other things, with economic cooperation, defense relations and tourism.

But another development points to potential conflict.

Satellite photos taken by the firm Planet Labs on March 6 show the clearing of land by China for possible new construction in the disputed Paracel Islands. Taiwan and Vietnam claim the Paracels as their territory.

Chinese dredging vessels are purportedly seen in the waters around Mischief Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea. Photo taken May 2016. U.S. Navy/Handout

Chinese dredging vessels in the South China Sea in 2016. Photo: US Navy/handout

Last month China’s agriculture ministry announced a fishing ban, including over a number of areas claimed by the Philippines, Taiwan, and Vietnam, among others, in the South China Sea, that would last from May 1 to August 16. The Vietnamese Foreign Ministry strongly objected to the ban, which it described as “unilateral.”

Hua Chunying, spokesperson of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs

At the same time, on the diplomatic front, China claims to be drafting a new code of conduct with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), although some experts doubt that diplomats can complete it as promised by the end of this year.

A non-binding code of conduct resolution signed by China and ASEAN in 2002 included brief mention of cooperative “marine environmental protection,” contingent on a comprehensive and durable settlement of the disputes.

South China Sea disputed islands

Marine biology expert McManus says that effectively managing the marine environment will require peaceful relations among the nations whose fishermen, and the Coast Guards backing them, have clashed frequently in recent years.

McManus proposes that a “marine peace park” be established in the Spratly Islands and that a freeze on territorial claims be imposed as part of an agreement. But satellite images showing the clearing of land on North Island in the Paracels group makes a freeze seem unlikely any time soon.

A Vietnamese Coast Guard officer took a picture of a China Coast Guard ship moving toward his vessel, which is near the site of a Chinese drilling oil rig being installed in disputed water.

A Vietnamese Coast Guard officer took a picture of a China Coast Guard ship moving toward his vessel, which is near the site of a Chinese drilling oil rig being installed in disputed water. AFP/getty images

Carl Thayer, a Vietnam expert at the Australian Defense Force Academy, describes the Paracels as “vital to any future Chinese attempt to dominate the South China Sea.” But as long as the territorial disputes drag on, the maritime area’s environment will likely continue to pay a high cost.

Dan Southerland is the former executive editor of Radio Free Asia

 

Related:

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

National Geographic:

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A China Coast Guard ship (top) and a Philippine supply boat engage in a stand off as the Philippine boat attempts to reach the Second Thomas Shoal, a remote South China Sea a reef claimed by both countries, on March 29, 2014 (AFP Photo/Jay Directo )

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A Vietnamese fisherman repairs his vessel after it was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship that it protecting the waters around a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (PhoBolsaTV.com)

A Vietnamese fisherman repairs his vessel after it was rammed by a Chinese patrol ship that it protecting the waters around a disputed oil rig in the South China Sea, May 18, 2014. (PhoBolsaTV.com)

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

Vietnamese fishing boat Captain Tran Van Quang

Chủ tàu Trần Văn Quang và chiếc mỏ neo bị tàu lạ đâm lút vào mũi tàu. Ảnh: Đức Nguyễn.

 

Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea

Outrage: Vietnamese and Filipino protesters outside the Chinese Consulate at the financial district of Makati city, the Philippines, to protest the recent moves by China to construct an oil rig in disputed waters in the South China Sea

 

 (This    article has links to several  others related to environmental issues in the South China Sea).

A green sea turtle is seen off the coast of Oahu, Hawaii.

A green sea turtle.(Reuters)

 (Includes Obama creates largest ocean reserve, takes heat for new federal decrees)

 (Has links to many related conservation and environmental articles)

 (Rupert Wingfield-Hayes reports)

Image may contain: 3 people, people standing and outdoor

Filipino activists and Vietnamese nationals display placards and chant anti-China slogans as they march outside the Chinese Consulate in Manila’s Makati financial district on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on Friday, May 16, 2014, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. — PHOTO: REUTERS

 

 (August 25, 2016)

Image may contain: sky, outdoor and water

China’s Tian Jing Hao – Cutter suction dredger — Used to destroy South China Sea coral reefs to provide dredge material for new man made- islands — an environmental disaster

 (Contains links to several related articles)

August 17, 2015
ANOTHER set of a dredge floater assembly with Chinese markings found in the Zambales sea is pulled to the shore of the capital town of Iba on Sunday. The first set of dredge floaters was found by local fishermen off Cabangan, Zambales province, in July. ALLAN MACATUNO/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

ANOTHER set of a dredge floater assembly with Chinese markings found in the Zambales sea is pulled to the shore of the capital town of Iba on Sunday. The first set of dredge floaters was found by local fishermen off Cabangan, Zambales province, in July. ALLAN MACATUNO/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON

 

 

An elderly Vietnamese protester holds a placard during an anti-China protest in front of the Chinese consulate in the financial district of Manila on May 16, 2014. Several hundred Filipino and Vietnamese protesters united in a march in the Philippine capital on May 16, demanding that China stop oil drilling in disputed South China Sea waters. Many Vietnamese remain uneasy with China in the South china sea till this day.  AFP PHOTO/TED ALJIBE (Photo credit should read TED ALJIBE/AFP/Getty Images)

Image may contain: 1 person, outdoor and water

The End of an era?  Fishermen work to unload a net full of anchovies during a fishing expedition in the Pacific Ocean. Photo AP

 

 

Overfishing driving dozens of species into extinction threatening African food crisis, warn experts

February 11, 2017

‘The growing extinction threat to fish off the central and western coast of Africa could seriously undermine food security across the region,’ IUCN says

By Ian Johnston Environment Correspondent
Thursday 19 January 2017

The Independent Online

Overfishing off the west coast of Africa threatens to drive many species to extinction, which could cause food shortages for local people, conservationists have warned.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said the Madeiran sardine and other important sources of food could be wiped out.

Some 37 species were classed as threatened with extinction and 14 more were said to be “near threatened” from Angola in the south to Mauritania in the north.

Illegal fishing in these waters is a significant problem with complaints that European fishing fleets are taking too many fish.

Pollution, degradation of habitats, the spread of invasive species and the warming of the waters caused by human-induced climate change are also all putting pressure on fish populations.

The IUCN’s director-general, Inger Andersen, said: “The growing extinction threat to fish off the central and western coast of Africa could seriously undermine food security across the region.

“Fish provide a major source of animal protein for coastal communities, which account for around 40 per cent of this region’s population.

“In a part of the world where poverty reduction remains a challenge, preserving the rich diversity of marine fish species will help safeguard the livelihoods of local communities.”

Experts studied the populations of some 1,288 bony fish species, the vast majority of those found off Africa’s west coast.

Of those classed as threatened or near threatened, 39 were targeted by fishing fleets and many were food staples.

In a statement about the study, the IUCN said: “The Madeiran sardine, now listed as vulnerable, is one of three sardine species which are all considered overfished within the region.

“The endangered Cassava croaker is estimated to have declined by 30 to 60 per cent over the past 10 years, primarily due to overfishing.

“Croakers are particularly important to local subsistence fishers, who will be most affected by stock declines.”

The area is famed for its fishing grounds with places like the Niger delta providing rich breeding grounds for fish.

But this has been affected by serious oil pollution, development, and the conversion of mangrove swamps for human uses.

Piracy has been a problem in this area, with some fishermen turning to crime after struggling to make a living. Some have blamed European fleets for stripping the seas of fish.

“The study highlights the severely limited capacity for fisheries surveillance and enforcement in the region, leading to illegal fishing and overfishing that imperils national and regional management efforts,” the IUCN said.

“In many countries illegal catches represent over 40 per cent of the reported legal catch.”

The IUCN said marine resources provided food and livelihoods for nearly 400 million people living in western and central African countries with a marine coastline.

Idriss Deffry, marine and coastal coordinator for the IUCN programme for western and central Africa, said: “For the first time, we have comprehensive knowledge of the presence and population status of all marine fishes in the region.

“This will provide critical information for improved fisheries and marine protected area management, and identify further research and conservation efforts needed.”

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/overfishing-species-extinction-african-food-crisis-threat-iucn-warning-niger-angola-mauritania-a7534901.html

Related:

chinese_fishing_boat4.jpg

China has the most fishing boats in the world

 (Links to several related articles)