HONG KONG – Concern is mounting among some scientists that China’s reclamation work in the disputed Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea has done severe harm to one of the most important coral reef systems in Southeast Asia.
China’s use of dredged sand and coral to build artificial islands on seven reefs had also damaged reef systems beyond the outposts, meaning the affected area could be greater than first thought, several scientists who have studied satellite images of the Spratlys told reporters.
Those concerns contrast with repeated official Chinese statements that Beijing is committed to protecting reefs and the broader marine environment in the South China Sea in keeping with its obligations under United Nations conventions.
John McManus, a prominent University of Miami marine biologist who has worked with Philippine scientists to research the South China Sea, told fellow experts this month that China’s reclamation “constitutes the most rapid rate of permanent loss of coral reef area in human history.”
Beyond the outposts, a wider area of reef had been destroyed by the dredging of sand from lagoons for use on the new islands and the dredging of shipping channels to access them, he wrote in an online oceanographic forum operated by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a federal agency.