The Global International Waters Assessment by the United Nations Environment Programme in 2005 identified the South China Sea as a large marine ecosystem with more than 2,500 species of marine fishes and 500 species of reef-building corals. The study also found enormously diverse platform reefs and atolls existing, most notably in the Spratly Islands, which play a key role in the nourishment of regional biodiversity.
Given the importance of the South China Sea as a highly resource-rich area, marine scientists have expressed overwhelming concern about the impact on the marine environment of the ongoing dredging activities in the South China Sea for the construction of artificial islands.
The former Director of Vietnam’s Institute for Strategy and Science Dr. Le Van Cuong stated that the daily dumping of landfill with sand dug from nearby reefs “upsets the marine ecology of the region, completely destroying the formed coral reefs aging hundreds of millions of years”. The chief scientist of the National Geographic Pristine Seas Program, Alan Friedlander, also reinforced this statement by saying that “the dredging and building on coral reefs in the South China Sea is causing irreparable damage to one of the most diverse ecosystems on earth.” He added that dredging kills reefs, and without reefs, fishes would disappear.