Whales & COVID-19: How the Pandemic Has Helped Wildlife

People who ask questions such as “Why is the ocean so important to human life?” and are concerned about the effect that human activities can have on it have been wondering what effect the COVID-19 pandemic has had on the ocean and its inhabitants. By now, researchers have gathered enough data to start drawing conclusions.

Measures intended to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus, including travel restrictions and shelter-in-place orders, temporarily stopped or extremely slowed down many human activities, such as whale watching San Diego. Scientists have started referring to this slowdown period as the “anthropause.” As researchers collect data about the anthropause, they begin to see how it has affected wild animals for better or worse. For whales, in particular, the net effect seems to be for the better.

Decline in Commercial Whale Hunting

Commercial whale hunting was already on the decline when the pandemic hit. There are only three countries in the world that still allow it: Norway, Iceland, and Japan. Commercial whale hunting and processing require workers onboard the ships to work in close proximity to one another. In Iceland, specifically, whaling companies found that continuing such operations while observing government-imposed social distancing regulations would have been impossible. Therefore, more than one company halted whale hunting operations while such regulations were in effect. It is not at all certain that such operations will resume after the pandemic is over as the demand for whale meat has decreased. As more whales are saved from hunting, whale watching Los Angeles is getting more popularity, bringing a lot of fun for the whole family. Thus, you’ll have the opportunity to watch some of the rare species like the Orcas or the Sperm Whales.

Reduction in Underwater Noise Pollution

Whales rely on their ability to produce and perceive sounds to communicate with one another, to find and catch food, and to navigate. Unfortunately, between sonar, construction, and traffic from large shipping vessels and cruise ships, human activities have produced a lot of underwater noise pollution. This not only interferes with some of the whales’ most basic and vital activities but also puts them under a lot of stress. When animals are under stress, they react much the same way that humans do, with a change in behavior.

With the anthropause in response to the pandemic, transportation and shipping underwent a dramatic decrease. As a result, the noise levels in the ocean declined as well. Research is currently underway to collect and test hormone samples from whales to determine how the quiet of the anthropause has affected them. The hypothesis is that the relative quiet will have a positive effect on the whales, and the samples will show decreased levels of stress hormones as a result. The difference in stress hormone levels before and during the anthropause should give scientists an idea of how great the effect of noise reduction has been on the whales’ stress levels.

It is important to note that, in addition to the enormous human toll it has taken, the pandemic has not been completely positive for whales and other wildlife. While it put a temporary pause on some harmful human activities, it also halted beneficial activities, such as conservation projects. However, now that the pandemic seems to be nearing its end, it is possible to resume or accelerate activities that help people become more aware of ocean life and the need to protect it, such as orca whale watching California.

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