Taking stock and projecting the future of South China Sea fisheries.

Spanning an area of around 3.8 million square kilometres, the South China Sea (SCS) is rich in biodiversity, fisheries and other natural resources. It is bordered by Hong Kong, China, Macau, Taiwan, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, Thailand, and Cambodia. Particularly, fisheries resources are crucial for supporting coastal livelihoods, food security, and export trade in the SCS, yet they are highly threatened by pollution, coastal habitat modification, and excessive and destructive fishing practices. To allow sustainable management of the SCS ecosystems, there is a need to comprehensively understand its current status, existing and potential threats, and to develop plausible scenarios for its future. As such, this contribution, firstly, undertakes a Taking Stock exercise that integrates existing data on the SCS as a basis for assessing its fisheries in terms of economic, social, and ecological indicators. Second, it carries out scenario analysis using the Ecopath with Ecosystem modeling framework to project potential futures for the fisheries of the SCS. This report provides fishing data on each of the SCS countries and territories, including information on catch, effort, gear types, target species, stock status, small versus large scale operations, employment, and trade. Estimated levels of marine aquaculture, as well as Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing, are also reported for the region. In addition, this report outlines the existing threats to SCS ecosystems, as well as the national management regimes that exist to mitigate them. Although political cooperation is complicated by competing territorial claims within the SCS, there is potential for collaboration on achieving regional fisheries objectives. Finally, we describe the intergovernmental fisheries management efforts that exist in the SCS, as well as highlight the interconnectedness of the region through fisheries trade, with a particular focus on Hong Kong’s role as a seafood importer. To conclude, regional knowledge gaps are outlined, and scenarios built to project the future of SCS fisheries.