China acknowledges damage done to turtles, corals in South China Sea

Published on
May 29, 2018

An event organized to mark World Sea Turtle Day has highlighted rampant destruction of corals in the South China Sea by Chinese fishermen and scavengers.

Chinese authorities gathered journalists in the city of Sanya in the island province of Hainan – a center for fishing in the South China Sea – to record the destruction of hundreds of giant coral shells, sea turtle shells, conch shells, and dried turtles and sea horses. The shells were destroyed by sledges and giant rolling machines.

Large shells from the sea bed have become prized in China, where shells like the “Royal Crown” sell for thousands of yuan and often end up as ersatz decorations in homes and restaurants. As a result, sea turtles – once abundant in Hainan – are now largely extinct.

China claims all of the South China Sea, though its stake is disputed by several Asian nations. Several recent judgments in international courts have criticized China’s actions in the Greater Spratly Islands, where China has built artificial land masses in waters also claimed by the Philippines.

China’s activities in the region have "caused devastating and long-lasting damage” to the coral reefs there, according to the 2016 ruling of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the Hague. 

The court had investigated the Philippines' claims that China harmed the region's ecology, in violation of its commitments under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea. 

Photo courtesy of the provincial government of Hainan

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