American expert: The pictures show how Chinese ship waste threatens the reefs


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A US expert says swarms of Chinese ships have dumped human waste and wastewater into the disputed South China Sea area for years.

MANILA, Philippines – Swarms of Chinese ships have dumped human waste and wastewater into a disputed area of ​​the South China Sea for years, causing algae blooms that have damaged coral reefs and threatened fish in a catastrophe, a U.S. expert said Monday.

Satellite images over the past five years show human waste, sewage and wastewater accumulating and causing algae in a cluster of reefs in the Spratlys region, where hundreds of Chinese fishing boats anchored in batches, said Liz Derr, who heads Simularity Inc. ., a software company that creates artificial intelligence technologies for satellite image analysis.

At least 236 ships were spotted in the atoll, internationally known as Union Banks, on June 17 alone, she said at a Philippine online forum on Chinese actions in the South China Sea, which Beijing claimed were almost entirely.

“When the ships don’t move, the poop piles up,” Derr said. “Hundreds of ships anchored in Spratlys throw raw sewage at the reefs they occupy.”

Assistant Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs Eduardo Menez of Manila said Philippine authorities should assess and confirm the findings before making a decision on whether to protest against China.

“This is a disaster of epic proportions and we are close to a point of no return,” Derr said.

She warned that shoals of fish, including migratory tuna, are breeding on damaged reefs and could lead to a significant reduction in fish stocks in the coastal area, which is a key regional food source.

Separately, the Chinese military said it expelled a U.S. warship from another disputed area of ​​the South China Sea on Monday after Washington warned that an attack on the Philippines could trigger a mutual defense agreement.

Beijing has reaffirmed its demands for parts of the sea also made by Southeast Asian governments. She rejected the statement of the Biden administration about the support of the verdict of the international court from 2016 in favor of the Philippines, which expelled most of them.

China is increasingly assertive about setting its territorial claims, fueling tensions with neighbors, including Japan, India, Vietnam and the Philippines.

The Chinese People’s Liberation Army said that it sent ships and planes after the USS Benfold entered the waters under the protection of Beijing around the Paracel Islands.

In March, Philippine authorities spotted more than 200 Chinese fishing boats on the Whitsun Reef, on the northeastern periphery of Union Banks, and demanded that China withdraw them from the area. China has ignored demand for weeks, while still claiming the reef is its own territory.

The Philippines has claimed that the Whitsun Reef is located within an internationally recognized water area where it has exclusive rights to exploit fisheries, oil, gas and other marine resources. He quoted the ruling of the International Court of Justice from 2016, which annulled the huge Chinese claims to the waterway for historical reasons and unanimously supported the sovereign rights of the Philippines to the so-called exclusive economic zone.

Several hundred protesters held a noisy rally in front of the Chinese consulate in Manila on Monday to mark the fifth anniversary of the verdict, which China has ignored and continues to defy. Protesters have lashed out at President Rodrigo Duterte, who has nurtured closer ties with Beijing, for refusing to aggressively demand that China adhere to the milestone.

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Associated Press reporters Joeal Calupitan and Aaron Favila contributed to this report.

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