A friend of mine called to tell me that he was going to the Pratas (Tungsha) Islands for a week to make a documentary on the establishment of an Oceanic National Park there by the government of Taiwan.

First proposed several years ago, the park is there to preserve the marine life of the area:

Though they do not look like much at first glance, the Pratas Islands have much to offer. Migratory waterfowl pass over the islands during their annual travels, and the surrounding undersea areas are believed to be rich in natural-gas resources. They are excellent fishing grounds, attracting fishing boats from Hong Kong, China, and Vietnam. Unfortunately, the use of dynamite, acid and cyanide fishing, as well as other injurious practices, have destroyed between 70 percent and 80 percent of Pratas coral and thinned out the fish population.

Such a national park may well have another function. The Pratas are disputed between several neighboring nations, including both China and Taiwan. By establishing a national park there, the government can generate more publicity for its claim, and perhaps some international support.