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May 2020    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Vol. 35, No. 5   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Nature Takes Advantage of the Lockdown

from the May, 2020 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

The lockdown necessary to take on the coronavirus crisis has meant that nature has been given a break from many of man's activities.

Jellyfish have been seen swimming in the Venice canals, as the sediment has settled, leaving the waters clear and blue instead of their usual muddy color. In North Vancouver, Canada, a pod of orcas has been spotted in Indian Arm, a steep-sided glacial fjord, they've been spotted in the middle of Vancouver harbor, exploring the waters of the floatplane terminal, normally busy with noisy seaplanes. Penguins have been filmed walking the streets of Cape Town, South Africa.

Bloomberg reports the closure of restaurants and hotels, the main buyers of fish and seafood, together with the difficulty of maintaining social distancing among crews at sea, have caused thousands of fishing vessels to be tied up at ports around the world. Marine scientists have already started investigating the effects this will have on marine life.

Kuulei Rogers, a researcher with the Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, says that in Hanauma Bay they are seeing more fish closer to the shoreline thanks to humans abandoning the beaches.

Throughout the Caribbean, the absence of cruise ships might help reduce the incidence of deadly Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease. Karen Neely, a scientist at Florida's Nova University involved in SCTLD research interviewed by Forbes Magazine, guesses the absence of divers will make little difference. However, she thinks the spread to new, unaffected regions of the world could possibly be reduced thanks to the lockdown. "While we have no way of knowing how SCTLD got to the Turks and Caicos or Virgin Islands, St. Martin, or Mexico, the best working hypothesis is shipping traffic. If shipping traffic is reduced, the probability of infection of new areas would be as well."

Leatherback turtles, which can grow to six feet long and weigh up to 2000 pounds, are taking advantage of deserted beaches to nest in peace. In Juno Beach, Florida, the staff at the Loggerhead Marine Life Center have discovered 76 nests over a 10-mile stretch of sand in the first two weeks of the season -- a significant increase over last year. In Thailand, the largest number of leatherback nests in two decades has been found on beaches bereft of tourists.

In India, a massive influx of more than 70,000 olive ridley turtles took advantage of deserted beaches to storm the Odisha Rookery to mass nest in broad daylight.

Clearly, the oceans need healing, and this respite in the human-caused degradation of the seas is a welcome note in the tragedy of the coronavirus.

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