Geopolitical standoff in South China Sea leads to environmental fallout

A long-running territorial standoff over the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea has seen vessels dumping enough raw sewage to threaten the marine ecosystem there — and the degradation is extensive enough to be seen from space.

On July 12, U.S.-based geospatial tech company Simularity released satellite images showing a conflagration of algal blooms and phytoplankton sprouting from a trail of human waste dumped by ships anchored in Union Banks, part of the Spratly Islands, which are the subject of rival claims by six governments.

In a follow-up report released Aug. 11, Simularity highlighted the difference in the marine resources of an unoccupied reef and one that has seen human activities, such as Union Banks, which has been occupied by hundreds of Chinese fishing vessels since November last year.

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Leilani Chavez