BEIJING (AP)—A look at recent developments in the South China Sea, where China is pitted against smaller neighbors in multiple disputes over islands, coral reefs and lagoons in waters crucial for global commerce and rich in fish and potential oil and gas reserves:
Warning of Fisheries Collapse
An expert with the U.S. Center for Strategic and International Studies has warned of a looming collapse of crucial South China Sea fisheries due to overfishing and development projects.
Greg Poling, director of CSIS’s Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, said stocks in the sea, which accounts for about 12% of the global fish catch, “now are on the verge of collapse.”
Southeast Asian communities that rely on fishing in the sea “will be devastated,” Poling said in an interview with the PBS NewsHour in the U.S.
“You’re talking about hundreds of thousands of people that rely on fishing or fishing related industries and millions of more that rely on the fish and other marine life for food security.”
Poling said the impact will be felt more greatly by Southeast Asian countries than by China, whose moves to assert its claim to virtually the entire crucial waterway have contributed to the damage to fisheries.
All six governments that exercise overlapping claims in the area are incentivized to catch as much fish as possible at the expense of their rivals, Poling said. Meanwhile, China’s project of building man-made islands topped with military installations has destroyed thousands of acres (hectares) of coral reefs and Chinese fishing practices, especially the gathering of giant clams, have added to the devastation, he said.
“Some of these (reefs), the ones that you’ve probably seen pictures of Chinese air bases going on top of, those are dead forever. A lot of the others could come back but it’s going to take decades of being left alone and right now there is very little chance that they’re going to be left alone,” Poling said.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This excerpt is taken from a weekly look at developments in the South China Sea, the location of several territorial conflicts in the region.
Associated Press writers Jim Gomez in Manilla, Philippines, and Annabelle Liang in Singapore contributed to this report.