Images show waste from Chinese ships endangering reefs
MANILA, Philippines (AP) – Swarms of Chinese ships have dumped human waste and sewage for years in a disputed area of the South China Sea, causing algae blooms that have damaged coral reefs and threatened them. fish in an ongoing disaster, according to an American expert said Monday.
Satellite images over the past five years show how human waste, sewage and sewage have accumulated and caused algae in a cluster of reefs in the Spratlys region where hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels have anchored in batches, said Liz Derr, who runs Simularity Inc., a software company creating artificial intelligence technologies for analyzing satellite images.
At least 236 ships were spotted in the atoll, known internationally as the Union Banks, on June 17 alone, she told a Filipino online news forum on China’s stocks. in the South China Sea, which Beijing has claimed virtually in its entirety.
“When ships don’t move, shit just builds up,” Derr said. “The hundreds of ships anchored in the Spratlys dump raw sewage onto the reefs they occupy. “
Chinese officials did not immediately respond to Derr’s assessment of environmental damage, but have said in the past that they have taken steps to protect fish stocks and the environment in the South China Sea. Besides the Chinese, Vietnamese forces also occupied coral outcrops at Union Banks, also claimed by the Philippines, although they are not present in the vast atoll.
Deputy Foreign Ministry Secretary Eduardo Menez in Manila said the findings should be evaluated and validated by Philippine authorities before a decision on whether to file a protest against China can be made.
“This is a disaster of epic proportions and we are nearing the point of no return,” Derr said.
She warned that schools of fish, including migrating tunas, are spawning in damaged reefs and could lead to a dramatic decline in fish stocks in an offshore area that is a key regional food source.
Separately, the Chinese military said it had driven a US warship from another disputed area in the South China Sea on Monday after Washington warned that an attack on the Philippines could activate a mutual defense treaty.
Beijing has asserted its claims to parts of the sea which are also claimed by governments in Southeast Asia. He on Sunday rejected the Biden administration’s statement of support for a 2016 international tribunal ruling in favor of the Philippines that dismissed most of them.
China is insisting more and more on its territorial claims, which feeds tensions with its neighbors like Japan, India, Vietnam and the Philippines.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army said it sent ships and planes after the USS Benfold entered the waters claimed by Beijing around the Paracel Islands.
In March, authorities in the Philippines spotted more than 200 Chinese fishing boats at Whitsun Reef, on the northeastern outskirts of Union Banks, and demanded that China remove them from the area. China ignored the request for weeks, while continuing to claim the reef is its own territory.
The Philippines argued that Whitsun Reef is well within an internationally recognized body of waters where it has exclusive rights to exploit fishing, oil, gas and other marine resources. He cited the 2016 international tribunal ruling that struck down China’s vast claims to the waterway on historical grounds and unanimously upheld the Philippines’ sovereign rights over the so-called exclusive economic zone.
A few hundred protesters staged a noisy rally outside the Chinese consulate in Manila on Monday to mark the fifth anniversary of the decision, which China has ignored and continues to defy. Protesters blasted President Rodrigo Duterte, who forged closer ties with Beijing, for refusing to aggressively demand that China comply with the landmark decision.
Associated Press reporters Joeal Calupitan and Aaron Favila contributed to this report.