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Taiwan-held atoll fends off China fishermen

'Too early to tell if oil will stay up'
London (UPI) Oct 25, 2010 - It may be too early to tell if the current 10 percent rise in crude oil prices is here to stay, the London Center for Global Energy Studies said Monday in its monthly oil report. Crude oil prices rose during the weekend, adding $1.39 and reaching $83.08 per barrel in New York. "It is perhaps too early to declare that the 10 percent rise in prices as 3Q10 ended and 4Q10 began marks the shift to a new trading range for oil," said the think tank, in reference to oil price shifts at the end of September and in early October at the beginning of the fourth and final quarter of 2010. "The price of the OPEC basket of crudes has slipped back below $80 a barrel, while benchmark grades have not risen as high as they did in May, nor have they stayed above $80/bbl for anywhere near as long," said CGES, citing price trends in the varieties of crude oil exported by OPEC or traded internationally, including North Sea and U.S. oil.

The center said recent price spikes could be due to developments in both the oil trade and financial markets and linked to global economic trends since the 2008 downturn. However, it warned, "both these drivers for higher prices could reverse very quickly." OPEC exporters have been pushing for higher prices in response to rising import costs brought on by a weak dollar. The center also cited uncertainties over the role spare capacity for global oil supplies could play in restraining further and prolonged rises in crude oil prices. "Spare capacity throughout the oil supply chain ought to limit upward price movements but only if that capacity is used," CGES pointed out.

The report said "many conflicting forces" at work could make it harder to predict the outlook for crude oil prices in the coming period. Unless the Northern Hemisphere suffered a cold snap, pushing up oil consumption, demand would rise more slowly in the closing part of the year than in preceding months, said the center. Analysts of Chinese imports, European holdings and U.S. crude oil stocks cited in the CGES report suggests there's plenty of oil about in storage. The French strikes added to those reserves as tankers carrying 25 million-30 million barrels of oil couldn't leave for their destinations. "All of these factors ought to limit any upward pressure on oil prices in the coming months," the seasonal study said. "On the other hand, although there is ample spare capacity throughout the oil supply chain, this will only prevent oil prices from rising in the face of stronger demand if it is utilized promptly when needed," CGES said.
by Staff Writers
Dongsha, Taiwan (AFP) Oct 26, 2010
For decades, Taiwan's army was waiting for Chinese marines to pour across the white beaches of Dongsha atoll, but now fishermen from China are a much bigger concern.

The Chinese fishing vessels are often armed with dynamite and cyanide as they approach the atoll, now a marine national park, and its distance of more than 400 kilometres (250 miles) from Taiwan makes it hard to defend.

"The biggest problem is that Taiwan is so far away, and China is so close," said Chang Chong-tsou, director of Dongsha Marine National Park, as he stood under a cloudless sky viewing the vast expanse of the South China Sea.

"Lots of boats come here from the mainland to fish. There are too many of them, and we don't have the capabilities to chase them all away."

Dongsha atoll, which from the air looks like a near-perfect sandy white circle against a deep blue sea, became Taiwan's first marine national park in early 2007.

The move came after years of concern about the ecosystems at Dongsha, which contains less than two square kilometres (0.8 square miles) of land but boasts a rich marine life with an estimated 600 species of fish and more than 100 species of corals.

However, excessive fishing and natural causes such as the El Nino weather phenomenon have contributed to rapid degradation.

One reef site had 45 species of coral in 1994, but four years later, the number had been reduced to just three.

The status as a marine park may have signalled Taiwan's determination to protect Dongsha's coral environment, but the Chinese fishermen, some based little more than 200 kilometres away, remain a concern.

"We're up against fishermen from Vietnam, the Philippines and Hong Kong," said an official stationed on the island.

"But we're really close to places in south China like Guangdong and Hainan provinces, so the number of Chinese vessels is a great deal bigger."

Taiwan can trace its control of Dongsha back to the end of World War II, when China's Nationalist government took over the islands from the surrendering Japanese.

When the Nationalists were forced by the Communists to leave for Taiwan in 1949, they took their control of Dongsha with them.

The communist government, now on better terms with Taipei than at any other time in 60 years, has never seriously challenged Taiwan's control of Dongsha, perhaps reasoning it would get it all back through reunification anyway.

With the Cold War over, Taiwan's marine corps has relinquished the job of managing Dongsha, handing over the responsibilities to a handful of Coast Guard members.

It is a suitable change of guard in a post-Cold War world, where military attack is no longer the sole or even the primary threat faced by a society.

"Environmental protection is an important part of our job aside from protecting territorial sovereignty," said Sung Tzu-yang, a Coast Guard official.

The general public is not allowed on Dongsha, but this could change, and as early as five years from now tourists may be allowed to visit, albeit in limited numbers to protect the environment.

At the moment, however, the biggest concern is not to make money on the atoll, but simply to help it survive the onslaught of Chinese fishermen.

"When we chase them in the east, they emerge in the west. If we chase them in the north, they turn up in the south," said Chang, the national park director.

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