The circumstances afflicting the South China Sea fisheries are leading to a war over natural resources.
Recent reports are showing that one of the world’s largest fisheries is teetering on the brink of collapse.
The South China Sea area has been hit hard by commercial fishing operations for years and is now unable to sustain fish populations due to the massive harvests. This will make waves across international borders: South China Sea fisheries have long satisfied the demand for most of the tuna in the region.
Because of the constant tightening of fish supply in this once-bountiful area, China has actually deployed its military to keep foreign fishermen out. This especially affects anglers from the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei, and Indonesia.
Christopher Tubo, a local fisherman from the Philippines, says he quit fishing the area after his friend’s boat was attacked by water cannons from a Chinese vessel.
“One minute you’ll see an airplane, the next thing there’s a naval boat… If we kept going over there, maybe we won’t be able to go home to our families,” says Tubo.
Chinese interference and intimidation tactics have become a huge problem in the region. Tubo is just one of the 320,000 fishermen from the Philippines who are now struggling to make a living operating in South China Sea.
Reports suggest that the problem not only affects the anglers in the Philippines, because Vietnamese fishermen are reporting the same kinds of confrontations with the Chinese coast guard vessels. According to Vietnamese officials, nearly 200 Vietnamese from the island of Ly Son were reportedly attacked by Chinese boats in 2015 alone.
Here is the real issue: the tensions in the area are causing fierce competition for natural resources. The South China Sea is critical for many economic, military, and environmental reasons, and $5.3 trillion in international trade floats across its waters annually. If tensions in the region lead to a war, it could force the two superpowers, China and the United States, to go head to head.
The United States has long been an ally to the Philippines and has been a leader in the push for free and peaceful navigation in the area. However, despite “play nice” efforts by the majority of the countries in the area, China suggests that it has exclusive rights to almost the entire South China Sea.
The claims stem from the fact that historically, the Chinese have exercised jurisdiction and authority in the area. More recently, in 2013, the Philippines brought a case against China, which took place at the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague, Netherlands. China chose not to attend. As a result, the court ruled in favor of the Philippines on most of the claims.
Since then, China has vowed to ignore the process and its rulings.
As tensions rise and the fish supply decreases, more confrontations will surface. As the situation currently stands, it doesn’t look like China has any plans of backing down.