MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. – One seemingly positive impact of the majority of South Florida remaining inside during the coronavirus outbreak is being seen off of our shores.
Without all the boats and people in the ocean, the water is as clear as it's been in a long, long time.
It has many people wondering what will happen once the COVID-19 pandemic is over.
Just 13 days after Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez closed all beaches in the county to stop the spread of the virus, Mike Ruiz was shooting a marketing video for a new luxury highrise on Sunny Isles Beach.
He said he couldn’t believe what he saw.
"It was special, definitely something that felt unbelievable. I felt like I was in a movie," Ruiz said. "The ocean was crystal clear, neon blue; you could see right through the bottom of the ocean. I've never seen the water that blue in the years that we've been filming in South Florida."
Ruiz is not alone.
Over the past several weeks of isolation, residents who live on or near Miami’s waterways and beaches are reporting the same thing; dazzling, pristine water, the likes of which they’ve never seen here before.
Seth Bloomgarden is the chairman of the Miami Surfrider Foundation; a nonprofit that advocates for clean oceans.
"The waters look crystal clear and blue, almost like something you'd see in a remote island in the Bahamas," he said.
Every week, a team of volunteers test the water quality of Miami-Dade beaches, but they haven't been able to sample in a month because the beaches are closed.
"We don't know what’s going on with the water, we're somewhat blinded right now," Bloomgarden said. "Keep in mind that although the waters look clean, we don't know for sure. It's something we would very much like to verify."
Around the world, scientists have found traces of COVID-19 in wastewater, and though South Florida has been plagued by a string of sewage leaks in recent years, there have been no reports of any breaks this past month.
The clean water watchdog group Miami Waterkeeper is keeping tabs, but also has not been able to test.
“We don’t have any hard data about what’s going on with water quality right now, but just anecdotally, it does seem that the water quality has been able to rebound exceptionally quickly, and to be really resilient when the pressure of having a lot of visitors and folks using the waterways is lifted,” said Rachel Silverstein, executive director of Miami Waterkeeper.
There are no people on the beach, there is less trash and less plastic pollution in the ocean and there are few, if any, boats on the water, meaning fewer fuel leaks and a lot less noise.
Biscayne Bay, at a crucial tipping point of losing its sea grass ecosystem, is suddenly beaming with life.
Video footage has captured playful pods of dolphins and even two rare, highly endangered small tooth sawfish. There are only about 500 left in the world.
“NOAA scientists told us it was the first time that two of them had been filmed together in Biscayne Bay,” said Silverstein. “That can be really strong evidence to protect this area so that they can recover.”
It's clear something it happening; mother nature is taking a breath and bouncing back as humans finally give her some space.
“I think the universe has given us an opportunity to hit the pause button, and see all the harm that we’ve actually been doing to the environment and how to get it right,” said Bloomgarden.