Apr 2020

COVID-19 and Scuba Diving

By Ollie 

The Covid-19 pandemic has brought the world to a virtual standstill and affected industries across the board. Its impact, in the long run, remains to be seen but we hope and pray that humankind can fight this outbreak together, with strength and solidarity. This is the time to come together, support each other and support this beautiful community of ocean lovers.

For the past few decades, however, industrial growth and unchecked human activities have brought our oceans to the brink of irreparable damage. Oceans have been polluted mercilessly, illegal fishing practices have destroyed fragile ecosystems driving many marine species near extinction and climate change has wiped out more than 50% of the coral reefs, reducing the once-thriving coral reefs to bleached rubble and sand.

Since the various lockdowns due to Covid-19 across the globe, we have witnessed a distinct difference in our marine environment in this short period of time. Let’s take a look at some of these effects.

How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected marine life?

Marine life has benefited from the pandemic in the following four ways:

1. Low demand for seafood & Less fishing – Due to the lockdowns and social distancing measures placed in countries around the world and closure of restaurants and hotels (the main buyers of seafood), there has been a drastic decline in demand for seafood. Several hundred fishing vessels are not operating, which has given marine life a chance to recover from the onslaught of ongoing commercial overfishing.

2. Lower pollution – The noise, activity and pollution in the ocean have reduced significantly post the Covid-19 pandemic. As a result, many marine mammals and species such as killer whales, dolphins and turtles have now been spotted in areas where there was no sign of them for decades.

While fish and coral species can take decades to recover completely, as it is a slow process, the pandemic has definitely given the environment a much-needed breather from excessive human activity.

3. Increase in illegal fishing activities – While many fishing vessels remain at the port, there has been an increase in illegal poaching since there is less policing of the oceans during this time. Outbreaks onboard large fishing vessels poses a huge threat.

4. Beach closures – Baby leatherback sea turtles have been doing better than they have in years owing to the beach closures by authorities. Leatherbacks have been spotted at several beaches in Florida and Thailand due to low human population.

Covid-19 and the Scuba Diving industry

Dive shops around the world are experiencing an unprecedented threat to business, not unlike other industries. Since the diving industry is closely related to the travel and tourism industry, it is safe to assume that it would take a little time before it heals and recovers. The following are some of the problems and potential threats the industry faces:

1. High overhead costs – Dive shops have quite a high maintenance cost. With highly trained and professional divemasters, instructors, boat crew, captain and dive shop managers, the costs can add up quickly. Additional costs include licenses, boat maintenance costs, fuel, etc. With low or no business, these costs can pose a threat to several new dive shops.

2. Low tourism – With the pandemic in full swing, tourism has come to a standstill. Since the scuba diving industry relies heavily on tourism, it poses a threat in the coming months, which are crucial. When the pandemic subsides, it can be assumed that potential tourists would require some time to build the confidence to travel to their preferred diving destination.

3. High unemployment rates – In the recent past, there has been a surge in the available number of certified dive masters and instructors. They have employment opportunities in liveaboards, dive resorts, dive shops and hotels. However, the decline in demand for tourism may lead to lower employment rates of dive professionals in order for the dive shops to cut costs in the lean period.

4. Disinfecting dive gear – Some dive shops have reported that divers who do not own their dive equipment but have access to diving in the area have avoiding diving during the pandemic due to concern about infected dive gear. Operating dive shops are taking the necessary precautions and disinfecting dive gear regularly.

The Ocean and Us

The health of the ocean is intimately related to our health. It might come as a surprise but bacteria found in the depths of the oceans are used to help conduct Covid-19 tests. This proves that the ocean is our ally in the fight against this pandemic.

In this time, we must reflect on the adverse impact we have had on the oceans and its inhabitants and pledge how in the future, we will change to make our habits and lifestyle choices more sustainable. We owe it to ourselves, the oceans and the planet. The truth is that human health is closely connected to ocean health.

Solutions to problems that threaten us to come from the environment. We, therefore, must strive, now more than ever, to protect the oceans, instead of suffocating it with waste and plastic.

It might take some time, but by being strong in mind, body and spirit, we will fight this pandemic together. It is the time to support one and other and come together as one. To ride this wave of uncertainty, until it subsides into the lagoon of safety, security, good health and abundance once again.

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