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Jellyfish in Venice canal
(Photo : Andrea Mangoni)

A jellyfish was seen swimming in Venice's canal in Italy, which has been calm ever since the country's lockdown due to the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

The jellyfish was spotted by biologist Andrea Mangoni swimming near San Marco Square, floating a few inches underneath the water's surface. Reuters shared the video, which showed the jellyfish "gliding between reflections of Venetian palaces," it said in an article.

In an interview with Reuters, Mangoni said, "the low tide and low traffic due to Italy's ongoing travel restrictions made it possible to observe marine life right in the center of the normally boisterous city." 

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An unintended consequence of the pandemic

Italy has the third-highest number of confirmed cases and deaths due to COVID-19. As of April 23, the country has over 187,000 confirmed cases, 25,000 deaths, and 54,000 recoveries, according to Google.

But ever since the lockdown, traffic on the waterways has been reduced and pollution is virtually gone. Satellite images taken by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission from the European Space Agency (ESA) reveal the water has a darker blue hue in 2020 when compared to last year.

A spokesperson from the office of Venice Mayor Luigi Brugnaro said less traffic on the waterways allowed sediment to finally settle. "It's because there is less boat traffic that usually brings sediment to the top of the water's surface," the spokesperson said to CNN.

According to the Insider, people were already "seeing fish, seaweed, and swans on the waterways." Marine life was always present in the canals, but the absence of motorized boats and people on the waterways has made them easier to see, the office of the Venice Mayor said.

Venetian residents have since shared videos and images of animals in the canals in the Facebook group Venezia Pulita. It features the wildlife that they were not able to see because of boat traffic.

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One post from one of the group members revealed, "Without tourists there is no more abandoned garbage, no more garbage bins, and the royal seagulls, which are very skilled profiteers, finding themselves short of easy food return to hunt with greater frequency."

Dolphins have even "returned" to the canals because the waterways are virtually empty. 

Clearer skies ahead

Air quality has also increased at the canals because there were "fewer motorboats," the spokesperson added.

The spokesperson added, "The air, however, is less polluted since there are less vaporetti [canal boats] and boat traffic than usual because of the restricted movement of residents." This was also felt outside Italy.

Since the lockdown, there has been "a sharp decline in air pollution across Europe - particularly in Rome and the Po Valley in northern Italy," according to the ESA

This was a far cry from February 2019 when the European Parliament (EP) described air and water pollution in Venice as "worrying". It blamed boats with diesel marine engines for polluting the canals. 

Yet it only took one month to make the air cleaner, not just in Venice but throughout Europe. This is a trend seen in other countries too, such as China and the United States.