Research Handbooks in Environmental Law series
Edited by Rosemary Rayfuse
Chapter 19: Towards a regional regime for the establishment of a network of marine protected areas in the South China Sea
The South China Sea (SCS) is a body of water in the Pacific Ocean located between the Strait of Malacca and the Strait of Taiwan. Considered one of the largest semi-enclosed seas in the world, it is surrounded by China (including Taiwan), the Philippines, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. The primary activities involved in the exploitation of the SCS include fisheries, mariculture, oil and gas production, shipping and tourism. The SCS is recognized worldwide for its biodiversity richness, with the presence in the region of around 12 per cent of the world’s mangrove forests, 34 per cent of the world coral reefs and hundreds of millions of hectares of coastal wetlands. It is also an important fishing ground for countries in the region, with an estimated stock of 1027 species of fish, 91 species of shrimps and 73 cephalopods. However, the marine environment of the SCS is under serious threat as a result of the rapid economic development and high population growth which the region has been experiencing over the last few decades. The greatest threats to the region are habitat loss and degradation, unsustainable exploitation of marine living resources and pollution of the aquatic environment. According to estimates, as much as 70 per cent of the region’s mangroves, 80 per cent of its coral reefs and up to 50 per cent of its seagrass beds have been lost or severely degraded due to, among other things, the conversion of coastal land, destructive fishing practices and pollution.
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