The anthropopause, when humans were restricted to their homes because of the COVID-19 pandemic, allowed wildlife to reoccupy areas that were previously used by humans. The coral reef at Eilat has been deteriorating for the past 50-years, and includes the sea anemones, that have symbiotic associations with clownfish. The lack of appropriate niches in the form of sea anemones has also resulted in a drastic decline in the endemic Red Sea Clownfish (RSCF). We surveyed 7500 m of the reef to quantify the number of sea anemones and RSCF on five tourist frequented beaches. The pre-pandemic survey was conducted in 2019 and the post-pandemic in 2021. Overall, the average number of sea anemone per sample plot was 0.23/100 m (range 0–6); and there was no significant difference between the years. However, the mean number of RSCF per 100 m was 0.15 (range 0–6); and there were significant differences between the years with on average double the individuals in 2021. We found a significant positive correlation between the number of anemones and RSCF recorded on transects. In both years, 50 RSCF were in sea anemones; 39 (78 %) adults and 11 (22 %) juveniles. All adults and two juveniles populated the bulb/digitiform-tentacle sea anemones Entacmaea quadricolor, while 9 juveniles were in the leathery anemone Heteractis crispa. Our study demonstrates that the COVID-19 closures for the past two years were conducive to the RSCF and resulted in an increase in their numbers.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Aquatic Science
- Environmental Science (all)
- Economics and Econometrics
- Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law