To mark Earth Day yesterday, the Fisheries Agency released a documentary about the marine ecosystems around Itu Aba Island (Taiping Island, 太平島) and announced that a research team has found 90 undocumented aquatic species around the Spratly Islands (Nansha Islands, 南沙群島).
Taiping Island: A Concerto of Marine Life in the South China Sea (南疆太平之舞：徜徉南沙海洋生態樂章) was made as part of a one-year research project commissioned by the agency last year to study aquatic life around the Spratlys.
It was produced by underwater filmmaker Kuo Tao-jen’s (郭道仁) studio and Academia Sinica’s Biodiversity Research Center, and premiered yesterday at the Eslite Art House in Taipei’s Songshan Creative Park.
Center researcher and project head Jeng Ming-shiou (鄭明修) told a news conference at the movie theater that the team found 90 species never before documented in the waters off Itu Aba, which is the biggest natural island in the South China Sea.
Among these were nine large invertebrate species, 35 types of seaweed and 46 coral species, he said, adding that many species that were once common in the waters near Pingtung County’s Kenting Township (墾丁) can now only be found near Itu Aba, such as the humphead wrasse (龍王鯛), dogtooth tuna (裸鰆) and certain sharks.
“The island’s marine surroundings are reminiscent of those near Taiwan about 40 years ago,” he said.
Climate change and increasing human activity in the South China Sea pose great threats to Itu Aba’s marine life, Jeng said.
He urged government agencies to devote more resources to protecting the nation’s ecosystems.
Despite international arguments about marine resources in the South China Sea, the nation has “practically occupied the island to a certain degree,” given that Taiwanese military personnel and residents have lived on the island for several decades, agency Director-General Huang Hung-yan (黃鴻燕) said.
The agency aims to subsidize more research projects around Itu Aba to promote sustainable use of marine resources, he said.
In the documentary’s narration, Kuo, who stayed for about two-and-a-half months on the island last year while filming, described the dazzling movements of fish as an extended “dance drama.”
Kuo picked Antonio Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons for the background music, because it is as familiar to Americans and Europeans as the island is dear to Taiwanese, he said, adding that the melodies also accentuate the merriness of creatures busy reproducing.
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