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South China Sea warning: Fishing on verge of ‘irreversible collapse’ amid China tensions
October 19, 2020
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The South China Sea is now believed to be the highest biodiversity place on earth, according to marine biologist John McManus. He said there is about 570 species of coral in the region and this high level brings thousands of species of fish.
Professor McManus is urging local governments to establish a regulatory authority to stop the destruction of offshore reefs and clamp down on overfishing.
It comes as an army chief warned that China is creating a “potential flash point” in the disputed waters with its military force.
Last week, Philippine Army General Gilbert Gapay told reporters that China’s aggressive posturing is creating a risk that other countries will go into conflict in the South China Sea.
Speaking at a forum, he said: “It’s very tense. The situation has now become more tense because China is conducting its own unilateral exercises. It even fired its own missile.
“It is really a potential flash point in this part of the globe.”
Territorial disputes in the South China Sea have made it difficult for marine scientists to access the coral reefs to take on vital research.
Professor McManus of Marine Biology and Fisheries at the University of Miami, told Express.co.uk: “People rarely go there because they might get rammed and sunk by the Chinese missile destroyers that patrol the area.”
He explained how about 12 to 15 percent of the world’s fish catch comes from the South China Sea and that scientists believe most of the region “is on the verge of [a fishery] collapse”.
He added: “Collapse is a very serious and nearly irreversible thing.”
He warned that the destruction of coral reefs in the South China Sea will collapse fish stocks which tens of millions of people rely on for their livelihoods.
Professor McManus said: “The total number of people living in poverty within 100km of the coastline around the South China Sea is about 38 million people.”
Most of these residents live in villages that depend on fishing in the South China Sea, Professor McManus explained.
He added: “If the fishing stops you’re in trouble. There’s lots of people involved here and we have to protect it for that reason.”
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But some of South China’s reefs have already permanently been destroyed due to the building of military bases on top of them.
There are 70 military outposts in the Spratly Islands alone, according to Professor McManus.
Professor McManus said that an estimated 90 percent of the remaining reefs in the disputed waters requires immediate attention to preserve the environment.
But he warns that nobody can actually access the South China Sea to discover all the information needed to protect the region.
Professor McManus went to a Philippine base in the South China Sea in early 2016.
He said: “It’s pretty clear that China is dealing with it like it’s their backyard and if you go there they will order you to leave or even ram your vessel.”
Professor McManus and other scientists are calling for regional cooperation to stop the harmful destruction of the coral reefs in the disputed waters.
They are demanding that local governments in the area form a Regional Fisheries Management Organisation, or RFMO, to support conservation in the South China Sea and end overfishing in the waters.
There are already approximately 17 RFMOs which cover certain areas of the world’s oceans to manage fisheries, but not in the South China Sea.
He said: “If you have a Regional Fisheries Management Organisation at least people will have a regular meeting maybe once or twice a year to talk about things, they can exchange data, better handle the stock assessments and maybe even influence regulation. That’s what we need now.”