The COVID-19 pandemic has changed practically everything about our lives, and that includes work on and around the lakes. Industries from shipping and fishing to tourism and cruising are all affected, and so is scientific research on the lakes’ coastal wetlands.
This month, Great Lakes Now checks in with some of the people we’ve met over the last year — and a few new faces too — to find out how their lives, businesses, and industries are weathering the pandemic and its economic fallout.
We also take you inside several Great Lakes aquariums to see how staff are adapting to new circumstances, and how they’re reaching across the social distance that now separates their visitors from their residents. Who knew that in 2020 the tables would be turned, with all of us staying inside while the penguins finally get to go out?
WHERE WE TAKE YOU IN MAY
Premiered on DPTV
Tuesday, May 26 at 7:30 PM
STATIONS CARRYING THE SERIES
Bad Axe, Michigan
Bay County, Michigan
Bowling Green, Ohio
Buffalo, New York
East Lansing, Michigan
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Mount Pleasant Michigan
South Bend, Indiana
Syracuse, New York
University Center, Michigan
Watertown, New York for Ontario signal
Watertown, New York for U.S. signal
Ports and Pandemics
SEGMENT 1 | Chicago, Illinois, Duluth, Minnesota and Superior, Wisconsin, Bay Port, Michigan, Lansing, Michigan, Toronto, Ontario
The COVID-19 pandemic has not spared businesses and industries of the Great Lakes region.
In this segment, Great Lakes Now checked in with people we met in previous episodes of the show to see how they’re coping and what effects the pandemic may continue to have on their operations and summer season.
Ports are taking safety measures to keep from spreading infections, even as they see shipping traffic decline due to the pandemic’s economic fallout.
“We want to make sure that we’re doing everything possible to keep people healthy and safe,” says Clayton Harris III, executive director of the Illinois International Port District. “Even after things open up, I think it’s wise… that we just keep the face masks on for a couple months beyond what’s going on.”
Harris appeared in the Great Lakes Now premiere episode’s “Shipping News” segment. Watch HERE.
Onboard a Fishing Boat:
With processors and restaurants all but closed, the Great Lakes fishing industry faces a hobbled supply chain and a big hit to demand, says Lakon Williams, of the Bay Port Fish Company in Bay Port, Michigan.
“For the future, we’re trying to come up with a plan to only set one net in an area we think will get right around what we need, but we can set ten nets,” she says. “Do I think I can sell 6,000 pounds of fish right now? Absolutely not.”
Williams appeared in the “Net Income” segment. Watch HERE.
Travel and tourism face big uncertainties heading into the peak summer months. But with people reluctant to get on planes, travel in the Great Lakes region could be bolstered by locals staying local.
“People are going to be looking for open spaces, small towns, lesser-known places. Places that aren’t as busy,” says Dave Lorenz, vice president of Travel Michigan. “And that’s OK with us, because we want to keep as many people here as we can.”
Watch the Great Lakes Now segment to learn more about how industries related to the Great Lakes are impacted by the pandemic.
Here is other Great Lakes Now work about the shipping industry:
Here is other Great Lakes Now work about travel and tourism in the region:
Find all of Great Lakes Now’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic HERE.
In Isolation … At Aquariums
SEGMENT 3 | Brockville, Ontario, Chicago, Illinois, Detroit, Michigan
When most public institutions closed their doors due to social distancing efforts, the buoyant residents of our region’s aquariums still required attention.
Caretakers of these animate museums had the same priority as many of us: they looked for supplies.
“The first thing that crossed our mind was really to stock up on some food items for animals,” says Jennipher Carter, an aquarist at the Aquatarium at Tall Ships Landing in Brockville, Ontario.
As the pandemic progressed, administrators at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago wanted to offer wildlife encounters for the public through social media.
“We really want to try and provide these real-time videos and insights,” says Johnny Ford, the Shedd’s assistant director of public relations. “We can give a window for people to still see the animals that they love so much and understand that they’re still being really well cared for, even though the aquarium is closed.”
Within days of the shutdown, one penguin, Wellington, made a new friend: a beluga whale.
The video rippled throughout social media, to the delight of caretakers-turned-camera-crew.
“It’s just an opportunity to take them to different parts of the building that usually just are a little too crowded for penguins to do what they want to do,” says Senior Aquarist Eve Barrs,” While we wait for their fan club to return.”
The oldest aquarium in the nation, Detroit’s Belle Isle Aquarium, has its own spin on the animal field trip trend.
Aquarist Amanda Murray thought the Madagascar hissing cockroach deserved its 15 seconds of fame.
“I find that when people are at home wanting to experience the outside, that they are willing to maybe watch videos,” she says.
For more about Wellington, the cockroach and other creatures at Great Lakes aquariums, watch the Great Lakes Now segment.
Here is other Great Lakes Now work about aquariums and museums around the region:
- Animal Quiz: What Great Lakes aquarium animal are you in quarantine?
- Inside Entertainment: COVID-19 has Great Lakes aquariums and museums offering online activities
- COVID-19 Changes: Great Lakes parks and tourist spots are closing, remaining open and waiting for summer
- Board a Ship, See Some Fish, Learn the History: Great Lakes Museums, Aquariums and Forts
Find all of Great Lakes Now’s coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic HERE.
Videos from Episode 1014Subscribe on YouTube
How coal ash is threatening Lake Michigan, ideas for beneficial coal ash reuse and The Catch.
Saving salamanders, how Great Lakes ports fit into global shipping and The Catch.
Controlling invasive sea lamprey, hazards in our homes, and a Great Lakes news update.
The Great Lakes News Collaborative looks at the cost of water in the region and beyond.
A giant fungus in a tiny Great Lakes town, gangsters vacation “Up North,” and “The Catch.”
Sailing on ice, Lake Ontario winter surfing and three Lake Michigan news stories.
The science of shrinking ice coverage, Great Lakes ice fishing and skating on wild ice.
Lighthouse preservation, community renewal, and sturgeon teach Native American culture.
Plovers nest on a Chicago beach, suckers spawn in Wisconsin, and storms rage in Duluth.
Greener shipping in Indiana, the Benton Harbor lead crisis and water safety in Ontario.
Can two Great Lakes mayors with opposing views agree on how to protect the region’s water?
Building boats, cleaning up trash and uncovering amazing fossils around the Great Lakes.
Birds vs. buildings in Chicago, algae blooms on Lake Superior, and aquariums re-open.
Catch the latest updates on what’s happening with PFAS in Great Lakes Now’s biweekly headline roundup.
Ontario’s microbreweries are teaming up for an ale trail or IPA itinerary for tourists and locals.
It’s unclear whether the ruling will affect other conflicts around the state involving drainage projects that preserve farmlands but increase the volume of pollutants flowing downstream.
The county prosecutor’s office in Cleveland has opened an investigation into an apparent cheating scandal during a walleye fishing tournament.
The Great Lakes Now Series is produced by Rob Green and Sandra Svoboda.