Sewage from more than 200 Chinese ships in the contested waters of the South China Sea threatens marine life.
The damage is so extensive that it can be seen from space, according to Simularity, a US satellite image analysis company.
The Philippines, a claimant from the islands in the waters, said they were verifying the report.
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Raw sewage discharged from more than 200 Chinese fishing vessels around the disputed Spratly Islands in the South China Sea is causing extensive damage to coral reefs, Simularity, a U.S. satellite image analysis company, said on Monday.
“Sewage from ships anchored in Spratlys is damaging reefs, and we can see it from space,” Simularity Founder and CEO Liz Derr said at a digital forum hosted by the Think Tank of Manila Stratbase ADR Institute.
“The hundreds of ships anchored there dump raw sewage on the reefs they occupy every day,” Derr said during the presentation, adding that “when the ships don’t move poop builds up.”
Satellite images taken over five years – between May 14, 2016 and June 17, 2021 – show a stark contrast in algae growth. The researchers found that 236 Chinese ships were recorded motionless in the waters during this period.
Peter Koning, vice president of sales at Simularity, told Insider in an email that it was not normal for ships to sit still for such long periods of time and to monitor ships for months.
Excess wastewater promotes the growth of phytoplankton in the water, which can cause oxygen shortages. Without adequate supply of oxygen to the water, coral reef habitats can die.
“These bacteria consume oxygen that would normally be available to fish, creating a ‘dead zone’,” Simularity said in its report. Coral reefs take up to 10,000 years to form, and barrier reefs and atolls take 100,000 to 30 million years to fully form.
“This is a disaster of epic proportions and we are nearing the point of no return,” Derr said.
Simularity warned that it is not only the coral reefs that are at risk here, but the fish stocks of the South China Sea – an important food source for the region.
The Philippines, one of the South China Sea claimants, said it was verifying Simularity’s report.
“As we confirm and verify that this waste is dumped … We consider that these irresponsible acts, if they are true, are seriously detrimental to the marine ecology of the region,” Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement. press release, by Reuters.
“China treating us like its toilet is a blatant violation of international and local environmental laws,” Philippine Senator Grace Poe said in a statement, the Inquirer reported.
At least five countries claim islands in the South China Sea, including the Philippines, China, Malaysia, Vietnam and Indonesia. In 2016, the International Court of Justice, or The Hague, rejected China’s claims in the South China Sea.
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