A hidden crisis is unfolding across the South China Sea. While regional powers work to strengthen their claims to disputed waters and territories there, the marine environment in which they maneuver has been declining to critical levels. In recent decades, increased fishing, dredging, and land fill, along with giant clam harvesting, have taken a devastating toll on thousands of species found nowhere else on earth.

Over the past year, AMTI and the China Ocean Institute conducted research to study these threats using commercial satellite imagery and reconstructed statistics on fishing activity in the South China Sea. The results are catalogued in a digital report which presents the most complete picture to date of the ecological damage wrought by island building, giant clam harvesting, and overfishing.

Read the full digital report at CSIS.org:

Deep Blue Scars: Environmental Threats to the South China Sea

Report Highlights

  • Over 6,200 acres of coral reef have been destroyed by island building efforts in the South China Sea, with 75 percent of the damage being done by China.
  • Giant clam harvesting by Chinese fishers has damaged an additional 16,353 acres of coral reef.
  • Fish stocks in the South China Sea are overexploited, with fish catch stagnating since the 1990’s despite increased fishing effort.
  • Industrial fishing by Vietnam and China dwarfs the efforts of other coastal states and results in collateral damage to the marine environment through the use of bottom-trawling.