This weekend, a U.S. satellite intelligence firm Simularity released a report connecting the movements of more than 200 suspected Chinese vessels in the South China Sea with massive deposits of human waste.
From May 14, 2016 to June 17, 2021, Simularity tracked clusters of anchored ships operating around the Spratly Islands and matched them with concentrations of Chlorophyll-a, indicative of the ships dumping raw sewage.
During an interview with ABS-CBN News, Simularity founder and CEO Liz Derr said her firm “can’t definitively say that those are Chinese, but they seem to be the same ships that have been there since March and they look very similar so I think, in all probability, they are.”
“The sewage from the anchored ships in the Spratlys is damaging the reefs, and we can see this from space,” Derr said during a separate live-streamed presentation on Sunday, hosted by Stratbase.
While Chlorophyll-a deposits can happen near shorelines due to runoff from fertilized agricultural areas, erosion of riverbanks and land clearing, Derr said the Chlorophyll-a deposits this far out in the ocean are due entirely to “ship wastewater and human habitation without sufficient sewage treatment.”
Derr said, “When the ships don’t move, the poop piles up.”
Derr also noted the massive dumps of sewage are creating hypoxic “dead zones” along the ocean floor, which result in excess algae growth that damages coral reefs.
Several countries have asserted claims over the Spratly Islands, including the Philippines, China, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia. A 2016 international court decision at the Hague rejected Chinese claims of control over territory in the South China Sea, including the Spratly Islands. The Chinese government has since vowed to ignore the Hague’s ruling.
China has maintained a presence on the Spratly Islands, using sections of the disputed archipelago for military bases and runways for years. Chinese military aircraft have now reportedly established regular air operations from China’s various Spratly reef bases.
Simularity’s report on the dumps of raw sewage has sparked outrage from Philippine government officials.
“While we are confirming and verifying these wastes being dumped … We consider such irresponsible acts, if true, to be gravely detrimental to the marine ecology in the area,” Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said in a statement to Reuters.
Another Philippine lawmaker went so far as to claim China is using Philippine territory as a toilet.
“China treating us as its toilet is a clear violation of both international and local environmental laws,” Philippines Senator Grace Poe told the Inquirer