Earlier this month, an article by The Diplomat revealed satellite images of the Spratly Islands, showing “man-made scarring of coral reefs” on a massive scale between 2012 and 2015. The piece by Victor Robert Lee suggests just how widespread the problem has become as more and more Chinese fishermen use propellers in order to poach giant clams. The scarring is visible in at least 28 reefs, and most of these fishermen come from Hainan Island.
These images only confirm what BBC has discovered just a month prior. On a video released on 15 December 2015, English journalist Rupert Wingfield-Hayes paid a visit to the Spratlys to investigate reports that Chinese poachers are plundering the reefs — destroying corals and harvesting giant clams — under the protection of the Chinese Navy.
Watch the video below.
Above the surface, he found that “poachers were revving the engines on their boats sending clouds of black diesel smoke pouring into the air.” But the real damage was underneath. The devastation was so huge, he likened it to a desert. “Just a couple of years ago before the poachers moved in, this was a thriving reef system,” he shares in the video. “Now this is being torn to shreds by the poachers.”
It can be recalled that near this site last year, Chinese fishermen were caught poaching over 500 giant sea turtles, an endangered species protected by the UN Convention. Also, giant clams are listed under the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
On December 14, BBC also reported being told by the Chinese Navy to stay away. “We’re on a civilian aircraft flying over international waters, yet we were being repeatedly threatened.”