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Images from Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative depicted huge masses of white coral mucus secreted from coral reefs in the Spratly Islands of the South China Sea, an area where several land reclamation projects are occurring. The purpose of this research was to understand how increased sedimentation levels from the dredging land reclamation method affects mucus development in massive corals, such as Acropora, located in these reefs. Journal articles that focused on the biology of coral mucus, bacterial communities associated with coral tissue, mucus, and seawater, coral mortality from different environment impacts, coral coverage of reefs in Spratly Islands, and symbiotic relationships between reef fishes and corals were studied. The results showed that massive corals produce excess mucus to counteract the high sedimentation levels in the water column caused by dredging activity. Highly active heterotopic microbial communities are then attracted to the mucus’s dissolved organic carbon and perform respiration that rapidly consumes the oxygen and causes the coral to become stressed. Corals are important in the reef ecosystem, so the death of corals would affect fish higher up in the food chain. The South China Sea mainly supports the fishing industry in China. However, recent studies have shown that number of fish species has declined within the past eight years. The findings suggested that despite China’s two-month annual ban on fishery in the South China Sea, populations of fish will continue to decline as more land reclamation projects are implemented in the Spratly Islands, which would significantly impact the fishing economy.

Publication Date


Subject Major(s)



Corals, Reefs, Dredging, Bacteria, Fish, Spratly, China


Animal Sciences | Aquaculture and Fisheries | Environmental Health | Marine Biology

Current Academic Year


Faculty Advisor/Mentor

Mary Boyes


© The Author(s)

Recommended Citation

Ho, T. K. (2017, April 19). Dredging land reclamation causing mucus development in massive spherical corals in the Spratly Islands, South China Sea: The effects on China’s fishing industry. Poster session presented at Virginia Commonwealth University Poster Symposium for Undergraduate Research and Creativity, Richmond, VA.

Dredging Land Reclamation Causing Mucus Development in Massive Spherical Corals in the Spratly Islands, South China Sea: The Effects on China’s Fishing Industry