South China Sea fish stocks put in jeopardy by China’s island building projects, is not a matter of economics but of starvation. Professor John McManus of the National Center for Coral Reef Research at the University of Miami, has called on China and other countries in the South China Sea to get past their disputes and declare the region an international protected zone like Antarctica. According to L.A. Times, he issued the following statement to a panel organized by the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington on July 12, 2016.

“If we don’t do this, we are headed toward a major, major fisheries collapse in a part of the world where [that] will lead to mass starvation.”

The Diplomat delineates the “starvation factor” when it comes to fish stocks affecting the South China Sea claimants. There are an estimated 1.5 million traditional fishermen in the Philippines where the industry accounts for 2.7 percent of the national GDP, with three-fourths of the total fishing production from the contested region. About 35.3 percent of all animal proteins consumed in Vietnam comes from fish, higher in the Philippines at 42.6 percent and even higher in Indonesia at 57.3 percent.

According to The Wall Street Journal, University of British Columbia researchers estimate that South China Sea fish exports grew to 27 percent of global fish exports in 2011 from about 11 percent in the 1980s, topping at least $22 billion a year. The research forecasts a possible decline of fish stocks by up to 59 percent in the next 20 years if governments don’t discourage overfishing.

South China Sea Fish Stocks Plummeting: Scientist Warns ‘Mass Starvation’