China should ban the giant-clam trade to save the coral reefs in the South China Sea from furtherdegradation, according to a US marine biologist.
Kent Carpenter from Old Dominion University in Virginia testified in favour of the Philippines in its territorial disputes with China, saying Beijing’s activity has devastated the marine environment.
The academic environmentalist said giant-clam harvesting and island-building were responsible for most of the destruction.
“The destructive island-building activities in the South China Sea not only smothered corals by covering them over with actual sand but the sand itself is continuing to bleed out into the water … so they don’t have a chance to recover,“ Carpenter told the media.
“China would need to restrict the actual trade in order to really put a stop to what’s happening in the South China Sea because if their fishermen can’t sell their clams, they will not go out there to do their destructive fishing methods,” he told ABS CBN.
The tridacna or large clams are often polished and carved into valuable jewellery.
“It will depend on how proactive China is or will be in stopping this trade,” added the scholar.
Carpenter has served as a consultant to the Philippines in the South China Sea arbitration case.
He said the Chinese were bringing a major decline in fish catches in the area.
Giant clams are included in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna and have been targeted as a vulnerable species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The threats are listed as overfishing, pollution, climate change and poaching.
Carpenter said compelling satellite photos provided in testimony to a tribunal in The Hague showed the destruction of coral reefs as artificial islands were built to reinforce Chinese territorial claims.
The 2016 Hague ruling dismissed most of China’s claims but it has been ignored by China and the incoming Philippine president, Rodrigo Duterte, chose to bury the verdict.
China’s foreign ministry has protested against the presence of the US Navy in the South China Sea as the territorial dispute shows no signs of resolution.
Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the combat ship USS Gabrielle Giffords “illegally entered” waters surrounding the Spratly islands on November 20 and the destroyer USS Wayne Meyer passed through the Paracel Islands the following day.