Today, the world continues to struggle against the weight of the coronavirus pandemic. With over 2 million confirmed cases and deaths in the hundreds of thousands, Covid-19, as the disease is called, has caused life as we know it to come to a standstill. Most of us continuously ponder on the health, economic, social, and even political implications of the disease’s spread. But what is perhaps unexpected is the positive impact all these lockdowns are having on nature.
The skies are clearer. The seas are quieter. The ground no longer shakes with the ebb and tide of humanity.
After having people encroach on their natural habitat for decades, animals above land and below water are having a new lease on life.
This article explores how the ensuing pandemic is affecting marine ecology.
Noise pollution doesn’t just affect people. Studies have shown that it could be far more detrimental to animals, especially those living in the deep. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, Nathan Merchant, an expert on noise and bioacoustics at the UK’s Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (CEFAS) expressed concern that noise on the water interrupts animal activities such as foraging and mating.
“It’s really a huge footprint that these activities have in the ocean…It has a lot to do with how sound travels under water. Sound can travel much further and much faster than in air,” he explains.
But now that the cruise industry has suspended operations and activities on ocean oil rigs has greatly lessened, the amount of noise pollution present in these large bodies of water have decreased.
“Just pulling those cruise ships out of the water is going to reduce the amount of global ocean noise almost instantaneously,” marine life expert Michelle Fournet told The Atlantic. Fournet, a marine ecologist at Cornell studying acoustic environments adds, “We’re experiencing an unprecedented pause in ocean noise that probably hasn’t been experienced in decades.”
Fish are flourishing
Excessive harvesting of marine life has also caused much damage to many underwater ecosystems. Overfishing and the use of harmful fishing practices are the main culprits. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the amount of overfished stocks have tripled in the last 50 years.
And today, a third of the world’s assessed fisheries “are currently pushed beyond their biological limits.”
The plummeting demand for seafood during the current global health crisis is likely to put a halt of commercial fishing. Marine scientists have started to investigate how this phenomenon will affect marine life and so far what they’re seeing is promising.
Speaking to the Arkansas Democratic Gazette, Carlos Duarte of the Red Sea Research Center in Saudi Arabia compares this time with what occurred right after the First and Second World Wars.
He also mentions an increased presence of marine mammals like dolphins, seals, and killer whales in areas where they haven’t been in for decades.
“Studies after the first and second world wars showed a spectacular recovery…We are hoping that this unintended closed season between February and June or July will accelerate the recovery of fish stocks and allow us to reach conservation objectives faster,” says Duarte.
The flourishing marine life at this time is a ray of sunshine in these dark and dreary times. May it also provide a lesson for everyone about taking care of the planet’s finite resources so as not to exhaust them and bring about virus strains that’ll cause another disastrous pandemic in the future.