Plundering and Pillaging of Coral Reefs

A small fishing boat in the South China Sea is attempting to catch fish to sustain their families and provide food to the local community. However, it seems this simple task is more difficult than it seems. The Filipino fishermen are trying to do a necessary job only taking the fish they need to survive from the reef. This is a mind-set that the world should employ, but a dream for many. Nevertheless, what is taking place? What are they competing with? China. Huge numbers of Chinese fishing vessels are in this area, fishing out the stocks in the region. In fact they are not simply fishing for food, but they are doing something far worse.

It seems that the age-old age problem and to a definite degree a current age problem of the Chinese hunger and wish for exotic and endangered wildlife is as strong as ever. Everyone is aware of their craving for shark fins as well as many other endangered species. In these waters off the coast of the Philippines they have poached endangered marine turtles in their thousands to sell for food and medicine in their home towns and ports. It seems though that hunting them to extinction alone isn’t enough, that when there are few larger species left their attention turns to the reef itself; the once proud home of the turtles and sharks and the fish the Filipino fishermen need to survive.

Chinese fishing boats tie themselves to the reefs and push their engines to extremes creating a barrage of water and dislodging large sections of coral. For what you may ask? Clams. Large marine clams are a magnificent specimen of any reef that filter huge quantities of water and physically make up significant extents of the reef due to their size and composition. The destroyed reef by these so-called fishermen or a better term intruders allows them to reach this bounty and collect these prized clams and pearls found within them. The driver for this type of destruction as well as the poaching is the same impulse for everything in this world and everything that’s related to the illegal wildlife trafficking, money. Both the turtles and clams fetch huge sums and when compared to fishing alone, there is no competition. Not only are larger species removed, the homes and breeding grounds for a variety of species are lost due to the destruction. Nothing now grows there, nothing lives; it is now a marine desert.

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Photo from a recent diving trip showing numerous marine clams that exist within the reef itself. This explains why some destructive methods are used.

This sad state of affairs is tragic for many reasons. Coral reefs provide homes and habitats for a huge proportion of the ocean’s fish and wildlife and are an important breeding and nursery for a plethora of species. With this type of destruction it results in fewer habitats for breeding and re-populating. This has consequences for the Filipino fisherman resulting in fewer and fewer places to fish. Stocks have plummeted as the Chinese vessels branch out to new areas decimating more of the coral reefs with this destructive method. What can the Philippines governments do? Absolutely nothing. It seems any attempt by their limited navy to arrest or prevent the Chinese fishing vessels effectively erasing the coral reefs doesn’t get past the Chinese government who do whatever they can to allow this process to continue. No one has the courage or desire to go out and stop them, because of fear and retribution by the Chinese government.


The result of this destructive process leaving just coral debris.

 It is a worrying state of affairs when a nation attempting to change its way with regards to trafficking are secretly going back on its word. There have been huge alterations (maybe not in our eyes) in Chinese policy about endangered wildlife trafficking, which has effectively been made illegal, pushing it underground. Thus, to the outside world it is a welcomed relief that these changes came into effect, but we are a long way off yet. This current breach of international sanctions around the poaching of marine turtles and other endangered species needs focusing by the international community. Many of these atrocities have taken place within an exclusive economic zone assigned to the Philippines designated by the United Nations. This shows the Chinese’s pure ignorance for international law and their arrogance to effectively do as they please. If, this carry’s on unchecked the destruction could continue the length of the Philippines peninsula.

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I am a trained geologist who has a passion for conservation and working with wildlife. I write articles that interest me and that I am passionate about using skills and knowledge to highlight issues related to climate change. I don’t write articles for views, I write them to change views.

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