Victims Under the South China Sea

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Fiery Cross Reef, a tiny coral dot in the 1.4 million square miles of the South China Sea, wouldn’t seem the most obvious or ecologically sound location for a nearly two-mile-long airstrip. But based on satellite images released last week by Jane’s Defence Weekly, that’s exactly what China seems to be getting ready to build atop it.

Such construction is unfortunately not unusual in the South China Sea, where nations seeking to enforce their territorial claims have not always spent much time worrying about the environmentally and economically valuable reefs under the waves. How valuable? A 2011 report to the UN General Assembly on coral reefs noted that seafaring Asian nations count between 100,000 and “more than” 1 million coral reef fishers among them.

One might think that governments, pressed by those fishermen, would be striving to preserve fragile reef systems. But just the opposite has happened. According to a 2013 study by Australian and Chinese scientists, the South China Sea’s atolls and archipelagos have seen their coral cover decline to 20 percent from averages of 60 percent or more just 10 to 15 years ago.

 

Read more: http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2014-11-27/victims-under-the-south-china-sea

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