Limited human activity amid lockdown improved Mediterranean marine life

Updated: Jul 13, 2020, 12:38 PM(IST)

Marine life in the Mediterranean off Italy has flourished during the coronavirus lockdown as water quality improved and species moved into spaces vacated by people and ships.

Impact of human activity

The strict rules halting business and movement for two months offered an unprecedented opportunity to monitor the impact of human activity on the sea that surrounds Italy.


Lockdown diaries

Since April, the coastguard has used water samples, underwater footage filmed by remotely operated vehicles and its own divers, and a census of unusual sightings of marine species close to heavily populated areas to monitor the sea.


Transparency of water has improved

In the Secche di Tor Paterno, a protected marine reserve 8 km (5 miles) off the coast of Rome, moray eels and colourful fish crowd a forest of gorgonians, or sea fans and corals.

“We were able to ascertain a significant improvement in the transparency of the waters and a significant reduction in suspended material,” Lieutenant Alessandro Mino, commander of the coastguard diving unit of the Campania region, told Reuters, speaking from a boat off the coast of Lazio, near Rome.


Regaining lost space

A pod of sperm whales was spotted in the blue waters of the Sicilian sea near the port of Milazzo and dolphins replaced container ships in ports in northwestern Liguria. “The marine environment and marine life have regained spaces that human activity had eroded,” Alessandro Mino said. 


Masked and sanitized

While the water quality has improved, the marine life has a new threat. The marines are now finding masks, gloves and hand sanitizer bottles in the sea. 


'COVID waste'

The so-called “COVID waste” is adding to marine pollution made up of microplastics — tiny particles from the breakdown of everything from shopping bags to car tyres.

Since July 2019, the coastguard has recovered 75 tonnes of plastic and 5 tonnes of abandoned plastic nets.


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