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Travel restrictions benefit marine life and environment, say Greek experts

Travel restrictions imposed globally to manage the coronavirus pandemic have a visible positive repercussion in marine life and environment, with a reduction in pollution and a revival of sea populations. Sea turtles are one of the species that have benefited from this, project officer for the international organization for Mediterranean marine protection MEDASSET Eleana Touloupaki told state-run news agency amna.

“Nature has quieted down,” Touloupaki said adding that “in Greece, we recently saw the return of dolphins in the Thermaikos Gulf (Thessaloniki), the canal waters in Venice clearing up and fish returning.”

“In India, a great number of threatened sea turtles are laying eggs for hours at a time, even during the day, and the Hawksbill turtles in Brazil are even building a greater number of nests,” she said noting that endangered species return from the brink of extinction.

In Greece, Touloupaki says, the turtles lay eggs from May to August. “Now is a time that turtles are mating, so any reduction in human interventions and threats obviously helps, as it does for any wild species,” she adds.

University of Thessaloniki biology associate professor Thanassis Tsikliras concurs: “The reduction of pollution on a global level is impressive. In Greece we have notable improvements, observed in all ecosystems.”

He noted that pollutant measurements, done in real time, “show that chemical pollutants and garbage were significantly reduced within a month,” and adds that “Greece will benefit in multiple ways from this.”

Tsikliras said that although fishing has not stopped entirely, the combination of reduced fishing, a ban on swimming and a ban on amateur fishing all end up in zero fishing pressure on the coastal front as well.”

In the next two or three years, he believes, the biomass of fish in the seas will rise steeply because of the absence of the fishing pressure, and the size of the fish will be greater.

“Fish born today – except for anchovies and sardines, which are fished when they’re a year old – will be fished two or three years from now,” Tsikliras said adding that this will also benefit professional fishermen too.

University of Thrace professor Giorgos Syleos said that “urban and agricultural pollution continue to pressure the marine environment,” but a possible reduction of tourism during the summer months will be reflected in the sea as well.”

All three scientists stressed that the real effects of reduced travel on the marine life and environment will need to be examined further through scientific studies.

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