China's Fish Ecosystem on Verge of Collapse
The military crisis in the South China Sea has increased the rate at which coral reefs and fish stocks are being destroyed
SOUTH CHINA SEA — Tensions in the South China Sea are escalating, as China and its neighbors increasingly use commercial fishing vessels and warships to stake hotly disputed territorial claims and harvest one of the world's most fragile fishing grounds.
China claims more than 80% of the Sea, and it bases that claim on a 70-year-old map that marks its territory with nine dashes that reaches down 1,800 kilometers from its southern island of Hainan. The UN has recently ruled that this claim is invalid but this has only made China more aggressive in enforcing its claim.
This claim-staking contest is now having severe repercussions, as fishermen are reporting dwindling fish stocks after China subsidized its massive fishing fleet with billions of dollars, which led to overfishing and the destruction of coral reefs — which are vital to the fast regeneration of fish stocks.
The South China Sea is believed to be the area with the most biodiversity on earth, according to marine biologist Professor John McManus from the University of Miami. He said there are about 570 species of coral in the region and these bring thousands of species of fish.
However, scientists like McManus now predict that this whole ecosystem will collapse under the weight of overfishing and the coral destruction caused by China's construction of new military bases on top of coral reefs.
More than 104 square kilometers of coral reef has also been destroyed by giant clam poachers, who use boat propellers to hack apart coral reefs and pry out the giant clams, which are a delicacy in China. Another 57 square kilometers have been destroyed by China's base-building activities.
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