Today McManus, a professor at the University of Miami in Florida, continues to stand by the idea. In an email to Quartz, he writes:

The key elements for any treaty to protect the environment and prevent an impending multispecies fishery collapse across the South China Sea would be a freeze on claims (keep them as they are), a freeze on claim supportive activities (nothing a country does during the treaty period can be used in the future to define its claims), and a joint management, including coordinated fisheries regulations and standardized environmental protection. Taken together with recent additional environmental and fishery agreements, the Antarctic Treaty System is a good starting point for developing the necessary treaty. A particular emphasis on the Spratly Islands and Scarborough Reef, a Greater Spratly Islands Peace Park, would enhance tourism and protect sources of larvae of important fish and invertebrates which are needed to prevent local extinctions of constantly over-harvested species along coastlines around the South China Sea. The Park Management system would be able to handle such things as conducting search and rescue operations, in addition to environmental protection and enforcing fishery regulations. They could be based at the various military bases already in place.

Amid all the current tension in the South China Sea, turning the Spratlys into a marine park might sound like a fantasy. But the very fact that the idea continues to resurface so long after it was proposed speaks to its staying power—and suggests there’s something to it.

Underwater beauty near Swallow Reef.
Underwater beauty near Swallow Reef.
Image: Matthew Lee/Flickr, CC-BY-2.0

Underwater images by Matthew Lee on Flickr, licensed under CC-BY-2.0.

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