The Philippine armed forces have accused Chinese fishing interests of illegally damaging coral on a vast scale at Iroquois Reef, a disputed land feature in the Spratly Islands.
China maintains a large fleet of subsidized, militia-operated fishing vessels in the Spratly Islands and deploys them for presence and intimidation missions. In the past, Chinese fishing operators have long been accused of unlawfully harvesting in this region of the Philippine exclusive economic zone, often with overwatch provided by China Coast Guard cutters. Giant clams are prized for their shells in China, and Chinese fishermen will destroy reef structures in order to expose and catch valuable specimens.
In a recent patrol past Iroquois Reef, the AFP discovered what it believes to be evidence of “massive” destruction of coral by Chinese fishing vessels. The boats departed when Philippine forces arrived.