On August 16th, the fishing rich waters of the South China Sea were opened once again to the immensely huge Chinese fishing fleet after the annual summer fishing ban expired on Wednesday. An important part of the fishing operations in the South China Sea includes several of the islands China has transformed in working bases over the past few years. With these island outposts, China can ensure it takes full advantage of the waters in these areas.
Subi Reef, as pictured above from Planet, shows a few ships moored inside the reef. Most of these ships are small fishing vessels tied up together. The other larger ships are either specifically there for the fishing endeavour, for operations at the small base on Subi Reef, or Chinese Navy and Coast Guard vessels. The reef will typically always have one Chinese Navy ship moored in the reef for protection, and Chinese Coast Guard ships are sent out on patrol in the fishing areas to protect the fishing fleet and to deter other nationals from fishing in their areas. All the ship types seen in the picture from August 16th can be seen year round and represent normal operations.
Subi Reef and a few other Chinese islands in the area act as a stop off point and base for the fishing ships and Coast Guard vessels during fishing season. A place to get provisioned and offload their catch so they can head back out as quick as possible.
Fishing is a huge commodity for China. Fish caught in the South China Sea account for about 12% of the global annual catch. However, fish populations have been decreasing over the past few years due to over fishing. That is why the annual summer moratorium on fishing in this area was increased by a month this year. This shortage has made it advantageous to stage so far out into the waters of the South China Sea where Subi Reef is. This allows the Chinese to tap into fishing reserves that were once more difficult.