Satellite data imagery reveals that hundred of Chinese ships have been dumping human waste and wastewater every day for years in the South China Sea and parts of the West Philippine Sea, where they are anchored.
Human waste dumped from Chinese ships visible from space
Liz Derr, founder and CEO of Simularity, a software company based in the USA which specialises in creating artificial intelligence technologies and analysing geospatial imagery and data, said that the accumulation of human waste in these areas are so intense that it can see it from space.
Using satellite images collected in the last five years to back her claim, Liz Derr warned that this piled up waste from the Chinese ships in the South China Sea and parts of the West Philippine Sea is prompting the growth of algae, which, in turn, is damaging the coral reef, that will take decades to recover even with active mitigation.
Dumped human waste causing catastrophic damage to coral reef in South China Sea
Speaking at a Philippine online news forum on China’s actions in the South China Sea, over which China has been claiming sovereignty for years, Dirr said that at least 236 ships were spotted in what is internationally known as Union Banks, on June 17 alone. “When the ships don’t move, the poop piles up,” she said, adding that the “hundreds of ships that are anchored in the Spratlys are dumping raw sewage onto the reefs they are occupying.”
“The damage to the reefs in the last five years is visible and dramatic”, said Derr.
“This is a catastrophe of epic proportions and we are close to the point of no return,” Derr further added warning that schools of fish, including migratory tuna, which breed in the reefs that are being damaged could cause fish stocks to decline considerably. This she said will prove disastrous as fishes are a key regional food source.
Simularity CEO added that human waste is behind the increase in Chlorophyll-a in some areas of the Spratly Islands. According to the company, Chlorophyll-a concentration can mean there is harmful algae activity in the maritime territory.
“In water, Chlorophyll-a concentration is a measure of phytoplankton. Excess phytoplankton that cannot be consumed by the reef inhabitants dies off and sinks to the seafloor, where it is consumed by bacteria. These bacteria consume oxygen that would normally be available to the fish, creating a ‘dead zone,'” it said.
Philippines demands withdrawal of over 200 Chinese vessels from a South China Sea reef
Pertinently, in March 2021, the Philippines Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana had demanded a complete withdrawal of over 200 Chinese vessels from a South China Sea reef which is claimed by the Philippines. “We call on the Chinese to stop this incursion and immediately recall these boats violating our maritime rights and encroaching into our sovereign territory,” said Defense Secretary Lorenzana in a statement.
According to a Philippine government watchdog, about 220 Chinese vessels are moored at Whitsun Reef, a reef that China also claims. Pictures of these Chinese vessels on Whitsun Bay were released by the watchdog.