News / Asia

    Marine Biologists: Artificial Islands Devastating South China Sea Ecosystems

    FILE - Ongoing reclamation of Subi Reef by China is seen from Pag-asa Island in the Spratly Islands, South China Sea, western Palawan Province, Philippines, May 2015.
    FILE - Ongoing reclamation of Subi Reef by China is seen from Pag-asa Island in the Spratly Islands, South China Sea, western Palawan Province, Philippines, May 2015.
    Shannon Van Sant

    For years, overfishing in the territorially contested South China Sea has depleted local fish stocks.

    But since 2012, the controversial construction of artificial islands has ecologically devastated the disputed water way. Recently released satellite images show man-made scarring on at least 28 reefs.

    “The impact of the dredging and land reclamation projects are compounding the pre-existing impacts of fishing,” said Dr. Terry Hughes, a James Cook University professor of Marine biology, adding that the Asian countries building artificial islands there are having a substantial environmental impact.

    Between 2012 and 2015, Chinese fishermen have used large, extended propellers affixed to utility boats to chop the reefs and prepare for the construction of artificial islands.

    Fishermen scour the ocean floor for giant clam shells, which are prized as jewelry and luxury items that sell for up to $150,000.

    According to Dr. John McManus, a University of Miami marine biologist, while building on the reefs is not new, China’s large-scale construction of a military base and runways is resulting in unprecedented environmental damage.

    “Suddenly we have this massive situation where large areas of coral reef are being buried," he said. "In the end it was almost 13 square kilometers — 13 million square meters — that was destroyed, just in terms of being buried under these islands, and this was a huge, huge shock.”

    China’s Foreign Ministry has said the artificial islands are to be used for civilian purposes, search and rescue missions, as well as defense. 

    In an interview with Australian media, Wu Shicun, president of the National Institute for South China Sea Studies, said China has been building in the sea according to a “green construction ethos,” with strict ecological protection measures guiding the construction. 

    But Samantha Lee of the World Wildlife Fund says any construction in the waterway risks damaging the reefs and the already depleted fish stocks that rely on them to survive. 

    “If the sediment concentration of the water is too high, it will block off the sunlight and which will cause adverse impact to the growth of the coral," said Lee, a marine conservation advocate. "And again, if the sediment content is too high, it will block the gills of the fish.”

    McManus has long argued for the establishment of a peace park in the sea and the brokering of a joint resources management agreement which would include a code of conduct and a freeze on territorial claims. He says this would protect the vital ecosystems. 

    Recently, Vietnam and Taiwan began smaller-scale construction work on islands in the contested waterway.

    You May Like

    Video Obama Remembers Fallen Troops for Memorial Day

    President urges Americans this holiday weekend to 'take a moment and offer a silent word of prayer or public word of thanks' to country's veterans

    Upsurge of Migratory Traffic Across Sahara From West to North Africa

    A report by the International Organization for Migration finds more than 60,000 migrants have transited through the Agadez region of Niger between February and April

    UN Blocks Access to Journalist Advocacy Group

    United Nations has rejected bid from nonprofit journalist advocacy group that wanted 'consultative status,' ranking that would have given them greater access to UN meetings

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    by: American Eskimo from: San Jose, USA
    January 29, 2016 12:15 PM
    Who conducted nuclear/atomic testings on those Pacific islands? Who conducted target shooting and bombing practices on those islands by Okinawa and Philippines? Who built massive military bases by reclanimation on Guam, Okinawa and other islands in the Pacific? Why is NO press report regarding the Eco and Environmental damages for all the aforementioned cases? Why is other claimants claiming lands as well as China and only China is singled out?

    Out of the hundreds of islands/sandbars/rocks/atolls which China occupies only 7 and the balance goes to other claimants and yet China is demonized LOUDLY for hindering freedom of NAVIGATION? Just look at the sea lanes adjacent to these islands/sandbars/rocks/atolls as a 6 lanes highway and ships sail off the sea lanes will have serious NAVIGATION problems.

    by: Rs
    January 28, 2016 5:19 PM
    Why don't Western and Asian countries get together and push the bully back home.
    In Response

    by: Observer from: canada
    January 28, 2016 11:19 PM
    The countries really getting bullying are Vietnam Philippine and they are flies compare to the buffalo China, Westerns have bigger things to worry about beside China will avoid any issues with western countries and China there to stay and more Islands to be built when there military arsenal post completed.

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora