How COVID-19 helped the Ocean
Reduction in human activity brought on by COVID lockdown improves ocean health
So by now all of us should be familiar with the COVID-19 virus, its had the whole planet on lockdown for the last few months, its sadly killed over 550K individuals worldwide. Its changed everything from the way we shop, work, travel and live.
During the lockdown, we saw reports from Italy about dolphins returning to Venice, or Wales about sheep running through the streets. We saw nature emerging and appearing to be thriving once again. The forced lockdown meant that nature had to chance to replenish, heal, and recover from human activity. The dramatic decrease in human activity did wonders for the Marine ecosystem, and contrary to the negative effects that COVID-19 had on our species, the COVID brought on lockdown improved things for a lot of marine species and their ecosystems worldwide. Listed below are just some of the most interesting to me!
So not much of a surprise, given how quickly fear spreads amongst human populations especially with social media, but the demand for seafood has seen devastating lows these last few months. Fisheries and their attendant industries and communities across the globe have suffered from public fear of infection brought on by seafood or fish markets. The source of the virus, and where many suspect it originated, was a fish market in Wuhan, China. As a result, populations across the world have been consuming less seafood when compared to previous years statistics. Negative associations between fish markets and the injection of COVID into rural communities have also seen satellite imagery data showing an 80% decrease in fishing activity in areas in China and West Africa. Which with this reduction of fishing in such areas, coupled with a reduction in demand, the price for premium seafood products has sharply decreased. Typically seafood items sold to restaurants such as lobster, crabs, scallops and salmon have reduced in price per pound dramatically. Usually US marline lobster would sell for around $10 to the pound at this time of year, but it's seeing for under $3 right now. Many shops and supermarkets have shut their fish counters and are only selling popular, pre-packaged brands of seafood. Typically those in tins or plastic packaging. This is done to make restocking easy, and satisfy the demand for less perishable products during the lockdown, but many think this could be the new norm for shopping seafood.
Horseshoe Crab recovery in Northern America
In Delaware Bay, which is along the shores of New Jersey and the Eastern United States, the worlds largest freshwater port system hosts the gathering of hundreds of thousands of spawning Horseshoe crabs during the full mood cycle of April and May. For years the overfishing of the valuable blue body of the Horseshoe Crab, which is essential for the pharmaceutical industry (More on that here) has led to their numbers plummeting. This year there have been reports that the Horseshoe crab population has stabilised during the crucial spawning event with the reduction of fishing for this species due to COVID-19 lockdown, and social distancing measures. This is a precarious respite, however, care must now be taken to ensure that there is not a significant rebound in Horseshoe Crabs to meet the growing medical demand for a safe coronavirus vaccine with synthetical alternatives to Horseshoe crab blood also available.
A quieter Ocean
Perhaps a more broad answer is that all ocean life is seeing a resurgence since the COVID brought on lockdown. Global shipping as been significantly disrupted from social distancing measures, and lack of demand for certain products. This overall has meant that during lockdown the oceans of the world were the quietest they have been for over 150 years. Sound travels much further in the ocean, the water amplifies and carries soundwaves for much further than air. This is how whales and dolphin species can communicate over large distances, and as such have evolved highly specialised communications within long-distance sound conditions that the ocean permits. Industrial shipping has made the ocean an increasingly noisy place, and this can be tracked via the use of hydrophones on the ocean floor. The quite oceans have revealed some fantastical footage of marine life resurging around the world, and its making scientists eager to get out and monitor the effects of the coronavirus lockdown.
In the middle east, a pod of 2000 dolphins was seen off the coast of Fujairah in the UAE
Similarly, rays, dolphins and sharks have been seen off the coast of Dubai
A superpod of 350 sperm whales sighted off the coast of Sri Lanka
What does this mean for the Ocean?
Well going into lockdown the world faced water insecurity, overfishing, and marine pollution. Most Encouragingly, the resurgence of the world's water so rapidly during lockdown shows that with the right, strict, Management protocols it is possible to reverse the damage we have done to the ocean! The health of the oceans can improve. Something that HAS to be included in any post-COVID green economy plan to rebuild. We must now move on from this, knowing what we know, and we must use what we know to truly improve things for the better, for all concerned. If COVID has taught us anything, its how bad things can get, and compared to climate change and the catastrophes we will face as a planet if we don't change our ways, the destruction caused by COVID was nothing.