Fri, May 07, 2004 - Page 4 News List

Researcher says Spratly island needs study center

JOINT OUTCOME An Academia Sinica researcher told the government that a study center on Taiping Island would attract academics and illustrate Taiwan's sovereignty

CNA , TAIPEI

The government has been advised to consider setting up an ocean-study center on Taiping Island -- the major island of the Spratly archipelago -- because of its rich biodiversity and marine ecology and to highlight the nation's sovereignty over the Spratlys.

Cheng Ming-hsiu, a researcher at the biodiversity research center under Academia Sinica, made the call after concluding a week-long investigative tour late last month to Taiping Island, where he studied the marine ecology in the surrounding waters.

Pointing out that the restoration of indigenous fish and coral species there has showed noticeable improvement in recent years, making the area important for international oceanographers and scientists, Cheng advised the government to open the research unit without delay.

sovereignty

By doing so, Taiwan would not only be able to study the region's abundant biological resources, but would also display its sovereignty over the Spratlys to the rest of the world, he said.

Cheng is of the opinion that the government's South China Sea policy has been too conservative in the past.

According to Cheng, about 60 percent of the coral reefs southwest of Taiping Island have new coral, an increase from 10 percent in 1994.

"The diameters of some corals clustered nearby exceed 60cm," he said, adding that a larger variety of fish species such as sea bream and butterfly nut are now often seen in the region.

At the same time, the rehabilitation of the Formosan turtle has also been successful, he said, adding that he once saw as many as six of these turtles along the coast in a single day.

He attributed this encouraging phenomenon to adequate measures taken by the relevant authorities, including making sure no lamps are installed on the beach in order to allow the turtles to come ashore to lay their eggs without being disturbed.

The Academia Sinica researcher said that thanks to the island's location and rich marine resources, coupled with Taiwan's strong research clout, it will be easy to entice foreign scientists to forge cooperative ventures with Taiwan using his proposed research center.

satellite system

For the time being, the Coast Guard Administration (CGA) and the Ministry of National Defense have jointly established a satellite telecommunications system including TV and Internet networks on Taiping Island, laying a pivotal foundation for key infrastructure there, Cheng said.

Taiping Island is located about 1,600km from Kaohsiung in southern Taiwan.

Cheng carried out the investigation on the island between April 20 and April 27.

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