The coastal sea of South China provided an important habitat for protection and propagation of marine organisms. Rapid economic development and human activities, such as wastewater discharge, reclamation, overfishing and aquaculture in the South China Sea had already resulted in environmental degradation, and thus caused sharp contradictions between exploitation and protection of the coastal sea of South China. In this present article, the main environment problems and degradation trends were reviewed based on literatures and other sources of information, which mainly referenced nutrient pollution, persistent organic pollution and metal pollution, decrease of biodiversity, reduction of marine habitat and frequent natural and ecological disasters. The current efforts in China on protecting the environment in the coastal sea of South China were discussed, which included improving legislation by formulating a series of laws and regulations at national or local level, setting up natural reserves, and supporting research projects. There were many challenges regarding policy, management and science research to protect and sustain the coastal sea of South China, such as imperfect legal and administrative systems, lack of public participation, poor financial support and lack of monitoring and evaluation. Finally, some recommendations were put forward for the sake of the sustainable use of the environment in the coastal sea of South China, including reinforcing the planning of marine resource exploitation and use through integrated coastal zone management, strengthening the marine environment and protection awareness of the public, and scientifically establishing the fishery spawning spots and aquatic reserves.

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