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S. China Sea Coral Said Hurt

May 5, 1998

TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) _ Acid and explosives used by Chinese and Hong Kong fishermen are destroying coral beds in a Taiwan-controlled area of the South China Sea, a private research team said Tuesday.

Up to 90 percent of the coral has died in some beds of the Pratas island group, 240 miles southwest of Taiwan’s southern port of Kaohsiung, said Fang Li-hsing, a marine biologist who headed the research team.

He estimated that 600 Chinese and 400 Hong Kong fishing boats work in the area, spraying up to 50 tons of acid into the water each year. The acid stuns fish, allowing them to be captured live and served freshly killed in restaurants.

Nearly two tons of explosives are used each year to blow fish out of the water, smashing coral beds, he added.

Fang said the team did not find direct evidence that Taiwanese boats use the explosives or acid. But he said Taiwanese boats are often paid to cover for other boats and ward away Taiwanese navy patrols.

He said Taiwan’s military should step up patrols and expulsion of offending boats.

Fang’s team surveyed coral at nine separate beds in late April.

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