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Late yesterday, the Trump administration challenged China’s “ownership” claims of certain disputed portions of the South China Sea that are valuable fishing grounds and that also, according to the U.S. Energy Information Agency, contain huge reserves of oil and gas, much of which is yet undiscovered. While the U.S. has long-believed China’s claims are unlawful, this is the first time the government takes an official position on them. An international court four years ago decided in a case brought by Vietnam that China did not have a right to use and defend these areas as its own.
Why This Matters: This may ultimately about all that oil and gas, but the conflict today is overfishing. China continues to use its military to prevent Vietnamese fishing boats from harvesting in the disputed areas. Daniel Williard of the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) explains: China is the largest fishing nation in the world, it’s the world’s largest fish processor and trader, and it has a huge influence on global seafood markets. They have hundreds of millions of mouths to feed. This could get ugly given our current U.S.-China tensions over China not living up to the trade deal, and the U.S. sent the Navy to the region to show force.
“The world will not allow Beijing to treat the South China Sea as its maritime empire. America stands with our Southeast Asian allies and partners in protecting their sovereign rights to offshore resources, consistent with their rights and obligations under international law. We stand with the international community in defense of freedom of the seas and respect for sovereignty and reject any push to impose ‘might makes right’ in the South China Sea or the wider region.”
The U.S. had put its might behind this statement already. As NPR reported, a just days ago the Trump administration sent two U.S. aircraft carriers to the South China Sea to conduct training but it was “also ‘in support of a free and open Indo-Pacific’, the Navy said, as China’s military conducted drills near the Paracel Islands — one of the disputed island chains.”
China’s Outsized Influence On Fishing
As Willard of EDF points out, because China’s demand for seafood is so huge, actions it takes to manage its fisheries and economy can spill over to other countries and their marine ecosystems — something we need to understand better. Last year, the Stimson Center, a security think tank put out a report that shone a light on the fact that China has one of the largest distant water fishing fleet in the world, and it is growing and increasingly operating in ways that appear to be illegal to the rest of the world, but there is little publicly available information on its activities. Sally Yozell of Stimson says, “Transparency throughout the seafood supply chain is badly needed to sustainably manage our oceans and ensure safe labor standards on fishing vessels. In today’s modern society full transparency should be a social license for any global fishing operation. We need it to safeguard the food, economic, and environmental security for coastal nations. Our report makes actionable recommendations to ensure that the international community, distant water fishing fleets, coastal nations, and the industry itself, work together to protect our oceans and global fisheries for future generations.”
Tatiana Schlossberg reports for The Washington Post about the potential of seaweed to dramatically reduce methane emissions from cows. It turns out that Asparagopsis taxiformis and Asparagopsis armata — two species of crimson submarine grass — can reduce those emissions by 98% when just a small amount is added to their food. Now several companies are working […]
ABC News reports that there is a creeping underground invasion of our coasts, and it is moving inland much faster than had been previously thought, according to new research funded by the National Science Foundation. The stealth invader? Saltwater, which is infiltrating our coastal communities and creating unseen risks well in advance of the surface floods that drown our homes and businesses.
Why this Matters: This problem will become more and more common as climate change continues, causing widespread displacement across the world.
by Amy Lupica, ODP Contributing Writer According to a 2020 U.N. environmental report, seagrass “prairies” play a massive role in the health of the world’s oceans and if nothing is done to stop their decline, the world will face serious consequences. Seagrasses support rich biodiversity that sustains a whopping 20% of the world’s fisheries, and […]
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