The South China Sea is a remarkable body of water which, while abundant with marine life and hugely popular for sailing races, has come under bitter dispute over the past few decades. It’s bordered by many different countries, with many laying claims – and China, in particular, faces scrutiny for alleged activities that they are running in the region. Just a quick glance at recent news about the region will show you that controversies are ongoing.
However, there is more to the region than just political intrigue. It’s been a crucial shipping area for the longest time, and it is said to be a lucrative area for fishing and mining. Therefore, no wonder so many different territories are trying to claim ownership!
Here are interesting facts about South China Sea, separating the headlines from the data, and bringing you a fuller picture of the sea itself, considering why it’s so important, and what the future might hold. It is, sadly, a region where marine life is continuing to deplete. Therefore, conservation is hopefully on the horizon.
Here are more than a few facts about this disputed region, which will – by the looks of things – stay intriguing for time to come.
Huge reserves of oil and gas have been discovered in the region, estimated to fill 28 billion barrels.
China and Taiwan lay claim to most of the South China Sea, however, small countries with borders on it also claim their interest.
The South China Sea covers a surface area of 3,500,000 square kilometers.
It is estimated that 10% of the world’s commercial fishing is conducted there.
There are 250 small islands, sand bars and reefs on or in the South China Sea. Some present submerged hazards for shipping, so careful navigation is essential.
Endangered sea turtles share the South China Sea with sharks, giant oysters, eels, and many types of fish.
The fish population has seriously depleted during the last decade with tuna and grouper fish suffering the greatest losses.
Subi Reef, an artificial island built by China
Some fishermen have resorted to extreme and dangerous methods to fish. For example, bomb fishing captures groups of fish as home-made bombs are exploded underwater and the fish float to the surface.
The controversial practice of ‘cyanide fishing’ is used to catch fish for the lucrative ‘live’ market. Poison is squirted into the faces of fish to stun/incapacitate them.
China has come under increasing criticism for the destruction of the coral reefs in the South China Sea. It is alleged that people grind up the Coral Reef as material to be used as foundations in the construction of ‘islands’. Reef fish lose their habitat, food supply and larvae are destroyed as a result.
Marine experts have suggested the creation of a marine ‘Peace Park’. This would be a marine area where all countries agree to respect boundaries and cease construction, drilling and fishing, to give the ecosystem a chance to recover and thrive.
China has three areas where risk of earthquake and/or tsunami are closely monitored – one of these is the South China Sea.
As a result, the ‘TACMNR’ closely monitors and reports on any unusual or concerning seismic activity in the area. ‘TACMNR’ stands for the ‘Tsunami Advisory Centre for Ministry of National Resources’.
The deepest section of the ‘South China Sea’ is recorded at 16,457 feet.
Ash from the eruption of Krakatoa in 1883 can still be found on the sea bed, transported by wind and currents.
Weather in the area is tropical and affected by monsoons. Typhoons are frequent, and the rainfall varies between 80 and 120 inches annually.
The main shipping lane connecting the Pacific and Indian Ocean Ports is via the Strait of Malacca.
On August 18th, 2020, an aerial photograph over the South China Sea appeared to allegedly identify Chinese submarines using an undersea base.
The photograph was taken over Hainan Island and shows what is thought to be a ‘Type O93 Nuclear Submarine.
Dried Octopus from the South China Sea is available to buy online. It is used in many Asian dishes and increasing in popularity overseas.
The ‘Rolex South China Sea Race’ starts on Mach 31st 2021. The sea race is being organized by the Royal Hong KongYacht Club, with cooperation from the Subic Bay and Manila Yacht Clubs. The race is set for a 565 nautical mile course.
The Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club took first place over the line in a race in 1962. Since then, yacht races have been a regular feature on their calendar and those of other clubs in the area.
In the first race, competitors were accompanied by Royal Navy Minesweepers for the first 100 miles of the course.
In February 2020, information on a South China ‘blue hole’ and its contents were reported in Ocean Sciences’. Blue holes are underwater caverns formed from dissolving rock.
Referring to the South China Sea, the report stated that dissolved rock particles from deepest blue hole explored were radiocarbon dated and discovered to be thousands of years old.
This leads to researchers concluding the water at such a deep level has ‘probably not mixed with the open ocean for a very long time’.
Do you have any interesting or fun facts about South China Sea that we’ve missed? Share them here in the comments section below!