Covid-19-a blessing in disguise to the marine environment?
Updated: Nov 12, 2020
Covid-19 has turned the world upside down and has affected the health system, jobs, economy, and the entire livelihood so far. However, as the saying goes, “everything has two sides to it” , is it possible that Covid might have affected some things positively?
During the initial phases of Covid, the environment and ecosystems were thriving again. Due to the lack of disruption of humans and industrialised activities, pollution hit rock bottom and a rise in quality of our environment was
observed. The most difference was observed in our marine ecosystems. Covid slowed down ocean based sectors industries by the following percentages. Tourism 70.7 percent, fisheries 10.4 percent, offshore oil and gas 7.2 percent, shipping 6.2 percent, offshore renewables 2.9 percent and aquaculture 2.6 percent. Shipping was also slowed down and therefore resulted in lower marine
This has resulted in lower greenhouse gases emitted by vehicles, reduced ocean acidification due to the reduction of carbon footprint by the vehicles and has also reduced the noise levels in the oceans, allowing sea animals such as whales and dolphins to navigate themselves properly and make it easier for them to find food. Noise can travel almost 4.5 times faster and much further underwater than it can in air, and underwater low frequency noise (less than 100 Hz) typically emitted by
engines and propellers of large commercial vessels, can travel hundreds or even thousands of kilometres. Tourism has been at a near standstill due to restrictions on international travel. This has definitely benefited the coastal ecosystems due to reduced pressure from activities such as boating and diving, as well as reductions in wastewater emissions from largely unoccupied coastal hotel. A slowdown in coastal construction and other development have also been recorded and will bring about benefits of reducing stress on coastal ecosystems. Overfishing has also slowed down and has allowed fishes and endangered species to bounce back to healthy numbers. The marine environment seemed to look alive and colourful ever since Covid lockdown started. However, the one problem that has still not be solved by Covid is the problem of plastics in the ocean. In fact, Covid has made the plastic pollution problem worse for the marine ecosystem. The coronavirus
pandemic has sparked a huge depletion in ocean pollution since it has contributed to a glut of plastic waste that already threatens marine life due to discoveries made of finding disposable masks floating like jellyfish and waterlogged latex gloves scattered across seabed. It is said that there will
be more plastic than fishes in 2050.
Studies have shown that during the Covid period, the amount of plastic pollution doubled, however this time, it was polluted by surgical masks, gloves and other materials that were used vastly by humans during this pandemic. The level of plastic pollution has increased so much that there were more masks found than jellyfishes in the waters of France, reported by a scuba diver. Divers had found what Joffrey Peltier of the organisation described as“Covid waste” – dozens of gloves, masks, and bottles of hand sanitiser beneath the waves of the Mediterranean, mixed in with the usual litter of disposable cups and aluminium cans. The quantities of masks and gloves found were far from enormous, this was reported by the scuba diver
It has also been reported by UNCTAD that in Singapore, residents discarded an additional 1,470 tons of plastic waste from takeout packaging and food delivery during its eight-week lockdown before it was eased on June 1. As it can be seen, Covid had only halted these activities for the time being however as always, humans found another alternative to be able to go out and continue these activities by implementing the usage of masks, but never had a plan of how to dispose it off correctly, and now has in turn affected the ocean in a more negative state.
Problems like this do not need a pandemic as a solution however needs a change in consumer behaviour. Humans and residents should already be aware of the plastic pollution levels in the sea that has been looming over earth for so many years.
Till humans themselves realise, be proactive and bring about a change, there are more disasters coming our way, and Covid stands nowhere in front of these environmental disasters.