Last modified: 2014-06-14 by ian macdonald
Keywords: scarborough reef |
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status: disputed territory
Like the Spratly Islands to the southwest, Scarborough Reef is the subject of ownership disputes. The reef is claimed by the Philippines, mainland China, and Taiwan. Fishers from all three areas regularly fish the reef. However, the unclear ownership and lack of regulation exacerbate competition for the resources. Fishers stock up on blasting devices and cyanide to fish the reef in short, destructive trips. The reef is a major site for shark fishing with gill nets and for the capture of large fish for the live fish trade using cyanide. Ships load their holds with coral to sell as decorations for store windows and aquariums.
The U.S. military used the reef for bombing practice during the 1990 confrontation with Iraq, complicating matters. Large and unique underwater dune-like structures of organ-pipe coral tens of meters long were used as targets. Substantial areas of coral were torn apart by the explosions. Many of the bombs failed to explode, littering the lagoon with live ordinance. It is reportedly common for a fisher to drop a small explosive charge in a beer bottle, only to set off a massive explosion. Visitors to the reef over the years have reported increasing levels of degradation from the combination of abuses to the reef.