Brewing Storm in the South China Sea

The South China Sea is breathtakingly beautiful. Stunning beaches beckon travelers. Vacationers from all over the planet come to enjoy fresh pineapple, mango smoothies, and miles upon miles of sand. The coastlines are lined with shady trees and tropical flowers. Small islands dot the waterways and breathtaking coral reefs provide a snorkeler’s paradise. Yet having traveled to the South China Sea a dozen times, I believe it’s the warm sun, crystal clear water, scuba diving, and opportunity to photograph the outrageously stunning scenery that lures people to this oasis.   

Meanwhile, in this paradise, a storm is brewing. Although typhoons are common, the waters are not thrashing because of a natural disaster but one that is manmade. Large super dredgers have been at work chopping up the coral reefs, pulling up the natural habitats, and killing marine life. China’s state-of-the-art dredging technology digs deep, lifting up and removing entire sections of coral in one scoop while moving sand and sediment and destroying marine life.

The environment has been permanently and irreparably altered. The extent of the environmental damage in the South China Sea is extraordinary. Although other countries construct artificial islands, what is different in the South China Sea is that China is building military bases on top of the islands that, according to international law, do not belong to them. For size comparison, China constructed 3,200 acres of new land while Vietnam created 120 acres and Taiwan added 8 acres.

By destroying the coral, these dredgers kill the larvae and the fish. Yet, as the demand for fish grows, the supply of fish is decreasing. Tensions are high and battles between fishing boats rage on. China has sunk Philippine and Vietnamese ships, killing its fishermen. Yet, the people in these countries need food to survive. Meanwhile, in 2021, China has declared a new law saying that they control of the waters, fish, oil, and trade areas that belong to the Philippines, Vietnam, and other countries.

To learn more, Raging Waters in the South China Sea has four image-packed chapters on environmental damage. 

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