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Greece’s Marine Environment Gets New Lease on Life, Scientists Say

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Loggerhead turtle. Credit: Funfood /Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

Greece’s marine life populations have faced a period of revival due to the travel restrictions imposed globally to manage the coronavirus pandemic.

Covid-19 restrictions are having visibly positive repercussions on marine life in Greece, as they have brought about not only a reduction in pollution but also a renewal in once-struggling marine life populations.

Sea turtles are one of the species which have benefited from this phenomenon, according to Eleana Touloupaki, project officer for MEDASSET, a non-profit that helps protect marine life and environments in Greece.

Pollution reduced globally due to Covid-19 lockdowns

“Nature has quieted down…In Greece, we saw the return of dolphins in the Thermaikos Gulf, in Thessaloniki,” she said.

In Greece, 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,” Touloupaki notes.

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

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

He cites the restrictive measures from Greece’s first lockdown particularly for a “great reduction in pressure on fishing reserves across all fishing activities, whether by professionals or amateurs” for making this improvement possible.

Marine life in Greece will see benefits for years to come

Although commercial fishing did not stopped entirely, during lockdown the combination of reduced fishing, a ban on swimming and a ban on amateur fishing at the time “all ended up in zero fishing pressure on the coastal front as well.”

In the next two or three years, Tsikliras believes, the biomass of marine life in Greece’s seas, particularly fish, will rise steeply because of the absence of the usual mass harvesting of the resource — and even 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 explains. This will greatly benefit commercial fishermen in the long run.

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

He cites the current example of Venice, as even dolphins have returned to the cleaner waters of the lagoons in this global tourism Mecca — which was completely without tourists last spring.

All three scientists agree that the full range of effects of reduced travel on the marine environment will need to be examined further through continued scientific studies.

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