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Chinese Ships Dump So Much Human Waste In Sea It’s Visible From Space

by : Emily Brown on : 15 Jul 2021 15:14
Chinese Ships Dump So Much Human Waste In Sea It's Visible From SpaceMarine Executive/European Space Agency/Simularity/Pixabay

Human waste that has reportedly been dumped in the South China Sea has accumulated so much that its impacts are apparently visible in images taken from space. 

Hundreds of Chinese fishing ships that have been anchored in batches in the Spratlys region, a disputed area of the South China Sea, have been causing damage to coral reefs and threatening fish by dumping the waste in the same locations for years on end, according to a new report.

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The waste, which includes human waste, sewage and wastewater, is said to have caused algae to grow in a cluster of reefs, prompting expert Liz Derr to describe the situation as a ‘catastrophe of epic proportions’.

Accumulation of ships in Union Banks (Simularity/European Space Agency)Simularity/European Space Agency

Derr is the founder and CEO of Simularity Inc., a software company that creates artificial intelligence technologies for satellite imagery analysis, and said the algae growth caused by the waste is visible in satellite images taken over the last five years.

Derr said we are ‘close to the point of no return’, with at least 236 ships spotted in the area on June 17 alone. The ships are located in a spot known internationally as Union Banks, which Beijing has claimed virtually in its entirety, the Los Angeles Times reports.

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Speaking at a digital forum hosted by the Manila think tank Stratbase ADR Institute, Derr said: ‘The sewage from the anchored ships in the Spratlys is damaging the reefs, and we can see this from space.’

‘When the ships don’t move, the poop piles up. The hundreds of ships that are anchored in the Spratlys are dumping raw sewage onto the reefs they are occupying,’ Derr added.

Simularity images from space show waste accumulation (Simularity/European Space Agency)Simularity/European Space Agency

Schools of fish such as migratory tuna breed in the reefs, which are reportedly being damaged by the waste, and as a result fish stocks could decline considerably in an area that is a key regional food source.

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Chinese officials did not immediately react to Derr’s warnings, though they have previously claimed to have taken steps to protect the fish and environment in the South China Sea.

In a statement cited by the Inquirer, Philippines Senator Grace Poe said: ‘China treating us as its toilet is a clear violation of both international and local environmental laws.’

Eduardo Menez, Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary in Manila, said Derr’s findings would have to be validated by authorities in the Philippines before a decision is made on whether to launch a protest against China on the matter.

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Emily Brown

Emily Brown first began delivering important news stories aged just 13, when she launched her career with a paper round. She graduated with a BA Hons in English Language in the Media from Lancaster University, and went on to become a freelance writer and blogger. Emily contributed to The Sunday Times Travel Magazine and Student Problems before becoming a journalist at UNILAD, where she works on breaking news as well as longer form features.

Topics: News, China, Environment, Now, Space

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Simularity Inc.
  1. Simularity Inc.

    July 2021: Water Quality in Spratlys Report