The Effects of Live Music On Marine Life: Ultra Music Festival & Noise Pollution

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The discussion surrounding music, live events and their subsequent impact on the environment has moved further into the spotlight in recent years; as the threat of climate change grows ever more obvious. As more people rally together in order to bring awareness, and further action to combat climate change; the subject of how our entertainment affects the world around us is a necessary issue to tackle.

Ultra Music Festival, an annual EDM rave held on the island of Virginia Key in Miami (spanning two weekends) has brought to light further information as to how these events affect surrounding marine life.  A recent presentation by University of Miami researchers has caused the Virginia Key Advisory Board to rethink their decision regarding whether the festival should take place on the island, voting against the festivals return in 2020.

Ultra Music Festival took place for the first time on the island this year, but the future of the venue being renewed in 2020 looks rocky, especially based on the evidence presented. Researchers have stated that, aside from various other factors (such as general noise created by large amounts of people) they noticed a significant impact on fish nearby. Specifically, this focused on how the intensity of the sound had caused serious stress for a species of fish called Toadfish, being kept as specimens by the University researchers close to the event.

While the researchers stated that the stress the fish experienced was a “short term, acute response” which cannot define long-term effects further on – studies such as:

  • Richardson, W. J., Greene, J., Malme, C. I., & Thomson, D. H. (2013). Marine Mammals and Noise. Burlington: Elsevier Science.
  • National Research Council (U.S.), & National Academies Press (U.S.) (Eds.). (2005). Marine mammal populations and ocean noise: determining when noise causes biologically significant effects. Washington, D.C: National Academies Press.

Have shared information regarding the potential long-term effects of noise pollution on marine life, including hearing loss, behavioral changes; “masking” which can prevent certain creatures from interpreting natural sound – and “stranding“, animals finding themselves in dangerous locations, such as beached whales.

The researchers, and study presented by The University of Miami did also state:

For wild animals in particular, [stress] can cause long‐term decreases in reproduction that can lead to decreases in population…

Despite the board’s decision to vote against the festival being held on Virginia Key, the recommendation is not set in stone as it still has to pass through the Miami City Commission which will convene on May 9th for a final decision.

Our actions have a significant impact on the environment, and often noise pollution falls under the radar as a serious issue; especially with the lack of public knowledge regarding how marine life responds to, and is affected by, noise – and especially the amplification of festival music, the pollution that comes with these events on top of it. It’s imperative we are aware of how we are impacting our environment, and live as consciously as possible especially when it comes to our consumption of music and entertainment.

Words by Jenna Dreisenstock