How Israel Can Help Stem Over-Fishing In The South China Sea

While world leaders and Asian policymakers focus on disputes in the South China Sea, a less-publicized threat looms right over the horizon: over-fishing. As an important natural resource is rapidly depleted, millions, even billions, could be affected. Israeli innovation has an important role to play in averting catastrophe.

The South China Sea is one of the most important economic, military, and environmental locations on earth. Ten countries and territories surround it, and over $5.3 trillion worth of international trade traverses their shores annually. The area covers approximately 1.4 million square miles, and its rich marine ecosystem provides food and jobs to millions. Around the world, one in five people depend on fish as their primary source of protein, and over 200 million rely on fishing for their livelihood and food security. According to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organization, however, more than 80 percent of the world's fish species are depleted or are not producing at maximum capacity.

Seven of the 10 countries around the South China Sea claim some or all of the maritime features, which could lead to major conflagration. In early 2014, China, which claims most of the waters as sovereign territory, shifted its foreign policy, building military bases on disputed islands and systematically intimidating non-Chinese fisherman.

Political tensions and hostile naval actions have caused a destructive cycle: non-Chinese fishermen do not venture very far off their coasts, resulting in local over-fishing and illegal practices. Fishermen use underwater bombs and cyanide to optimize their catch. Chinese nationals are encouraged by their government to fish as much as possible throughout this vast ocean to flex their national muscle, further adding to over-fishing.

The South China Sea has less than one-tenth the number of fish it did 60 years ago. "What we're looking at is potentially one of the world's worst fisheries collapses ever," says John McManus, a University of Miami marine ecologist. The fishing industry cannot be regulated as long as the territorial conflict continues, and it is unlikely to end anytime soon.

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Janice W McNair 1 year ago Member's comment

Really knowledgeable information about disputes in the south china sea.