Mon-Fri(09:00-18:00 hrs)

Oceans and COVID-19: Perspectives, Reflections, Recovery and Regulatory Frameworks

Saleem Mustafa

Borneo Marine Research Institute, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

John Hill

La Trobe University, Melbourne, Victoria, 3086, Australia

Rossita Shapawi

Borneo Marine Research Institute, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Sitti Raehanah M. Shaleh

Borneo Marine Research Institute, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Abentin Estim

Borneo Marine Research Institute, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Zarinah Waheed

Borneo Marine Research Institute, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Madihah Jafar Sidik

Borneo Marine Research Institute, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Chen Cheng Ann

Borneo Marine Research Institute, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Lim Leong Seng

Borneo Marine Research Institute, Universiti Malaysia Sabah, 88400 Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

DOI: https://doi.org/10.36956/sms.v2i1.238

Copyright © 2021 Saleem Mustafa, John Hill, Sitti Raehanah M. Shaleh, Abentin Estim, Zarinah Waheed, Madihah Jafar Sidik, Chen Cheng Ann. Published by Nan Yang Academy of Sciences Pte. Ltd.

Creative Commons LicenseThis is an open access article under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0) License.


COVID-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented public health crisis, taken about 1.4 million lives so far, infected almost 70 million people around the world, battered the global economy and paralyzed the normal activity. This situation is evolving so rapidly that the data on numbers of infections and deaths are changing daily and the economic impacts are difficult to evaluate at this stage and probably will not be exactly known in the near future. It is important to determine the genesis of the outbreak to understand the root causes of COVID-19 and to prevent such pandemics from occurring in the future. It is believed that the virus originated in a seafood market in Wuhan (China) that was also trading in wildlife for human consumption. Such practices are associated with the habitat degradation and biodiversity loss, leading to an imbalance of the natural ecosystems. The zoonotic spillover of this infectious outbreak is a reflection of the impairment of natural systems. Scientific and anecdotal evidences
demonstrate the significance of marine critical habitats in combating and containing human diseases. There are many other ways in which the oceans can help in human health. In addition to providing an analysis of the COVID-19 outbreak, this paper also suggests knowledge-based and informed measures that need to be applied to prevent a repeat of such catastrophic events while highlighting the role of oceans in this context. Plans and strategies for recovering the global economy and ensuring its resilience will require incorporating nature-based solutions and ecosystem restoration. The sustainability of the ocean is a key consideration in the development of a framework for post-COVID-19 recovery and this aspect is the major focus of this paper.

Keywords: Ocean solutions, pandemic, Natural capital, Coastal architecture


[1] WWF. Reviving the oceans economy: The case for action-2015. World Wildlife Fund, Washington, D.C,2015.

[2] SOFIA. The state of world fisheries and aquaculture. Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, Italy,2020.

[3] Holland, J. UN: The world is producing and consuming more seafood, but overfishing remains rife. Seafood Source, Diversified Communications, Portland, ME 0410.1, 2020.

[4] Davies, E. What will be the future for brands in a post COVID-19 world. GRIN Newsletter, Birmingham, UK, 2020.

[5] ILO. Pillar 1: Stimulating the economy and employment. International Labor Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 2020a.

[6] ILO. COVID-19: Sectoral impact, responses and recommendations”, International Labor Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 2020b.

[7] WHO . Timeline COVID-19. World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 2020a.

[8] Readfearn, D. How did coronavirus start and where did it come from Was it really Wuhan’s animal market The Guardian 28 April 2020, London, UK, 2020.

[9] SRI. COVID-19 coronavirus epidemic has a natural origin. Scripps Research Institute, California, USA, 2020.

[10] Keesing, F., Belden, L.K., Daszak, P., Dobson, A. Impacts of biodiversity on the emergence and transmission of infectious diseases. Nature, 2010, 468:647-652.

[11] Ostfeld, R. S. Biodiversity loss and the ecology of infectious disease. The Lancet Planetary Health, 2017, 1(1). DOI:https://doi.org/10.1016/S2542-5196(17)30010-4

[12] Munson, S.M., Reed, S.C., Penuelas, J., McDowell, N.G. et al. Ecosystem thresholds, tipping points, and critical transitions”, New Phytologist, 2018, 218(4), DOI: https://doi.org/10.1111/nph.15145

[13] WEF. Half of world’s GDP moderately or highly dependent on nature. World Economic Forum, Geneva,Switzerland, 2020.

[14] Lamb, J.B., van de Water, J.A.J.M., Bourne, D.G., Altier, C. et al. Seagrass ecosystems reduce exposure to bacterial pathogens of humans, fishes, and invertebrates. Science, 2017, 355(6326): 731-733.

[15] Washington, H. Human Dependence on Nature: How to Solve the Environmental Crisis. Taylor & Francis, London & New York, 2013.

[16] FAO. State of the world fisheries and aquaculture. Food and Agriculture Organization, Rome, Italy, 2020.

[17] Bondad-Reantaso, M.G., MacKinnon, B., Hao, B., Huang, J. et al. Viewpoint: SARS-CoV-2 (the cause of COVID-19 in humans) is not known to infect aquatic food animals nor contaminate their products. Asian Fisheries Science, 2020, 33: 74-78.

[18] Broome C.S., McArdle F., Kyle J.A.M., AndrewsF., et al. An increase in selenium intake improves immune function and poliovirus handling in adults with marginal selenium status. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2004, 80: 154-162.

[19] Gill, H., Walker, G. Selenium, immune function and resistance to viral infections. Nutrition and Dietetics, 2008, 65: S41-S47.

[20] Ivory, K., Prieto, E., Spinks, C., Armah, C.N. et al. Selenium supplementation has beneficial and detrimental effects on immunity to influenza vaccine in older adults. Clinical Nutrition, 2017, 36(2): 407-415.

[21] Tortorella, E., Tedesco, P., Esposito, F. P., January, G.G. et al. Antibiotics from deep-sea microorganisms: current discoveries and perspectives. Marine Drugs, 2018, 16(10).DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/md16100355

[22] Raposo, M.F., D. J., de Morais, A.M.B., de Morais, R.M.S.C. Marine polysaccharides from algae with potential biomedical applications. Marine Drugs, 2015, 13(5): 2967-3028.

[23] Jarred, Y.B., Lu, Y. Marine compounds and heir antiviral activities. Antiviral Research, 2010, 86, 231-240.

[24] Raveh, A., Delekta P.C., Dobry, C.J., Peng, W., et al. Discovery of potent broad spectrum antivirals derived from marine actinobacteria. 2013, PLoS ONE, 8(12): e82318. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0082318

[25] Pidot, S., Ishida, K., Cyrulies, M., Hertweck, C. Discovery of clostrubin, an exceptional polyphenolic polyketide antibiotic from a strictly anaerobic bacterium. Angewandte Chemie International Edition, 2014, 53: 7856-7859.

[26] Böhringer, N., Fisch, K.M., Schillo, D., Bara, R. etal. Antimicrobial potential of bacteria associated with marine sea slugs from North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Frontiers in Microbiology, 2017, 8: 1092. DOI:https://doi.org/10.3389/fmicb.2017.01092

[27] Karpiński, T.M. Marine macrolides with antibacterial and/or antifungal activity. Marine Drugs, 2019,17(241).

[28] Imperatore, C. , Gimmelli, R. , Persico, M. , Casertano, M. et al. Investigating the antiparasitic potential of the marine Sesquiterpene Avarone, its reduced form Avarol, and the novel semisynthetic Thiazinoquinone Analogue Thiazoavarone. Marine Drugs, 2020, 18(112). DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/md18020112

[29] Lindequist, U. Marine-derived pharmaceuticals: challenges and opportunities. Biomolecules and Therapeutics, 2016, 24(6): 561 - 571.

[30] Newman, D.J., Cragg, G.M. Drugs and drug candidates from marine sources: an assessment of the current “state of play. Planta Medica, 2016, 82: 775-789.

[31] Martins, N., Imler, J.-L., Meignin, C. Discovery of novel targets for antivirals: learning from flies”, Current Opinion on Virology, 2016, 20: 64-70.

[32] Mustafa, S., Estim, A., Saleh, S.R.M. A call for open access for marine bioprospecting. Environmental Policy & Law, 2019, 49(4-5): 232-236.

[33] EMA. Beware of falsified medicines from unregistered websites. European Medicines Agency, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2020.

[34] FDA. Beware of fraudulent coronavirus tests, vaccines and treatments. Food and Drug Administration, Maryland, USA, 2020.

[35] WHO. Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) advice for the public. World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 2020b.

[36] WHO. Climate change and human health - risks and responses”, World Health Organization, Geneva, Switzerland, 2020c.

[37] UNCTAD. Review of Maritime Transport. United Nations Conference on Trade and Development. Geneva, Switzerland, 2018.

[38] Bickley, S.J., Macintyre, A., Torgler, B. Sink or Swim: The COVID-19 Impact on Environmental Health, Fish Levels and Illicit Maritime Activity. Behavioural and Social Science, Nature Research, Springer Nature, Cham, Switzerland, 2020.

[39] Picheta, R. Coronavirus is causing a flurry of plastic waste - campaigners fear it may be permanent. Cable News Network, 2020.

[40] Mustafa, S., Estim, A. Blue Economy and Blue Growth in the Context of Development Policies and Priorities in Malaysia. Penerbit UMS, Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia, 2019.

[41] Osava, M. Prioritizing life or the economy will determine the post-pandemic focus in urban areas. IPS, Rome, Italy, 2020.

[42] Claudet, J., Loiseau, C., Sostres, M., Zupan, M. Underprotected marine protected areas in a global biodiversity hotspot. One Earth, 2020, 2(4): 380 - 384.

[43] Lubchenco, J., Grorud-Colvert, K. Making waves: the science and politics of ocean protection. Science, 2015, 350: 382-383.

[44] O’Leary, B.C., Winther-Janson, M., Bainbridge, J.M., Aitken, J. et al. Effective coverage targets for ocean protection. Conservation Letters, 2016, 9: 398-404.

[45] Mustafa, S., Shapawi, R. Ed. Aquaculture Ecosystems: Adaptability & Sustainability. Wiley-Blackwell, West Sussex, UK, 2015.

[46] Teleki, K., McCauley, D., Thienemann, G.F. Eight ways to rebuild a stronger ocean economy after COVID-19. World Resources Institute, Washington, D.C, 2020.

[47] Mohammed, A. COVID-19 pandemic exposes global frailties and inequalities. UN News, United Nations, New York, 2020.

[48] Allen, W. Learning for sustainability. Will Allen & Associates, Richmond, VA, USA, 2020.

[49] Mustafa, S., Estim, A., Shapawi, R. Higher education and sustainable development of marine resources. In: Encyclopaedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals: Life Below Water (Walter Leal Filho, Pinar Gökçin Özuyar, Anabela Marisa Azul, Luciana Londero Brandli and Tony Wall, eds.), Springer Nature, Cham, Switzerland, 2020.

[50] BI Transforming education: A conversation on fostering students’ reconnection with nature. Biomimicry Institute, Missoula, MT, USA, 2020.

[51] OECD. Towards Green Growth. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, Paris, France, 2011.

[52] Datta, A. Will COVID-19 change how our cities are designed in the future. Geospatial World- Geospatial Media and Communication, Noida, India, 2020.

[53] Beyer, L., Anderson, J. Collaboration on need-based solutions is key to resilient city infrastructure. World Resources Institute, Washington, DC, 2020.