Chinese poachers destroyed coral reefs in Spratly, Pag-asa islands — US biologist

GMA News 23 Sep 16;

Marine biologist John McManus said Chinese poachers had been using the propellers on their boats to destroy coral reefs at disputed islands Spratyls and Pag-asa, referred to as Thitu in China.

"I looked at the historical satellite imagery and found out that in every single case where they built their islands, a few years before, there had been the giant clam fishers who had used their boats to dig up the reef flat, killing all the corals," McManus said in a report by Maki Pulido for "News To Go" on Friday.

According to data, coral bleaching and reef scarring are evidence of systematic crushing through repeated scratching or scraping by Chinese poachers to harvest giant clams.

McManus added that aside from discovering the poaching method, the data also links the destruction of the corals to China's construction of artificial islands.

"They said their scientists went there. They looked around and they say 'Oh, this is all dead coral.' It was! It's the truth—it had been killed by the Chinese fishers," he said.

McManus is a professor of marine biology and fisheries at the University of Miami and is also the director of the National Center for Coral Reef Research at the Rosenstiel School in the same university.

His research has been cited in the case filed by the Philippines against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration, which ruled in favor of the Philippines last July, three years after the case was filed in 2013.

McManus is pushing for a large Spratly Island International Peace Park, which would be managed together by concerned countries.

"There has to be coordination of fisheries management and coral reef management across the whole South China Sea or it will collapse," he said.

Peace parks have already been established in parts of Africa and on the Red Sea between Israel and Jordan.

The Antarctic Treaty, signed in 1959 to turn Antarctica into a scientific preserve and to ban military activity in the continent, is an early example of an agreement between seven countries with overlapping territorial claims. It is also proof that territorial disputes do not need to end in armed conflict and violence. — Aya Tantiangco/VVP, GMA News

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