The Effect of Hurricane Hermine on Black Sea Bass

The following article first appeared on the Research Blog for Dr. Neil Hammerschlag’s Shark Research and Conservation (SRC) Lab website at the University of Miami’s Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science. To learn more about SRC, visit here: http://sharkresearch.rsmas.miami.edu/, or to learn more about the University’s marine science school, please click here: http://rsmas.miami.edu/.

 By Delaney Reynolds, SRC intern

Best Track Positions for Hurricane Hermine

Figure 1: Best Track Positions for Hurricane Hermine. This map is a composite of the best predicted tracks of Hurricane Hermine between August 28th and September 3rd, 2016. Offshore of western Florida, it transformed from a tropical storm to a hurricane, making landfall as a category one hurricane, and then transitioning back into a tropical storm as it made its way across the state into the eastern waters off Maryland. (Source: Berg 2017).

In September of 2016, Hurricane Hermine struck Florida as a category one hurricane and then migrated through Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, and then to offshore Maryland. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Centers for Environmental Information (NCEI), Hermine’s damage “totaled around $550 million, with a 90% confidence interval of +/- $150 million” and demolished 1,600 homes and businesses (Berg 2017). But how did it affect offshore fish populations? Researchers from the University of Maryland designed an experiment to find out.

Four months before Hermine hit Florida, 45 black sea bass were acoustically tagged and acoustic receivers were moored in the shelf waters of three different sites off Maryland; a northern, middle, and southern site. Rash winds of Hurricane Hermine caused destratification, “a process in which the air or water is mixed in order to eliminate stratified layers of temperature, plant, or animal life,” in the water column of the Mid-Atlantic Bight.  Due to this disarrangement, temperatures of northern and middle experimental sites rose 10 degrees Celsius in just ten hours creating an unsuitable environment for living organisms and, thus, either migration or death of the black sea bass was expected.

Black Sea Bass Population Size, Summer 2016

Figure 2: Black Sea Bass Population Size, Summer 2016. This graph exhibits the decay in population size of black sea bass between the three experimental sites. The two vertical, black, hash-marked lines indicate September 2nd – 6th. All three experimental sites showed a decline in black sea bass populations and by January of 2017, all three populations had diminished completely. (Source: Secor et al. 2017).

Researchers discovered that 40% of the sea bass populations had evacuated the experimental sites in search of a more suitable habitat and any that stayed behind exhibited decreased activity levels showing that there were large behavioral changes due to the increased temperatures. Evacuation was found to be highest in the northern and southern sites and lower in the middle site and in most cases, migration was permanent. Although some recovery was indicated in the two weeks following Hermine, water column stratification and black sea bass population sizes did not return to normal (Secor et al. 2017).

Although hurricanes are just one of the factors contributing to the emigration of fish species, as our planet continues to warm, hurricanes are predicted to become more intense and more frequent potentially leading to even larger emigration phenomena which would ostensibly take a large toll on the fishing industry. According to the Fisheries Economics of the U.S. 2011 report, recreational fishing in the South Atlantic generates 52,000 jobs and adds $3 billion to the United States’ GDP (Back in Black). Due to their importance to our economy and the threats that they face, it will be imperative to monitor black sea bass and fisheries to ensure that measures are being taken to stabilize the economy when their performances decline.

Works cited

Berg, Robbie. “Hurricane Hermine.” National Hurricane Center Tropical Cyclone Report, 30 Jan. 2017.

Secor, D. H., Zhang, F., O’Brien, M. H., & Li, M. (2018). Ocean destratification and fish evacuation caused by a Mid-Atlantic tropical storm. ICES Journal of Marine Science.

USA Department of Commerce, 27 Sept. 2013. “Back in Black: Black Sea Bass Stock Is Rebuilt.” Accessed from: www.commerce.gov/news/blog/2013/09/back-black-black-sea-bass-stock-rebuilt.

Why I’m Suing the State of Florida & Governor Rick Scott

On Monday April 16th I sued Florida Governor Rick Scott and the State of Florida (click here to read the lawsuit) along with seven brave children from all over the state to demand that the promises made to us in the Florida Constitution and The Public Trust Doctrine be kept and that our Public Trust Resources including our atmosphere and waters be protected from man-made carbon dioxide pollution caused by fossil fuels. Here are some of the reasons why I feel that we have a moral obligation to try and change things before it’s too late and, therefore, why I’ve sued our State and Governor.

I am the fourth generation of my family to live in South Florida and was born here in Miami. I love the state of Florida and its incredible diversity including the vibrancy and natural beauty of Miami and Miami Beach, the serenity of places like Matheson Hammock, and natural wonders such as the Florida Keys, our state’s amazing coral reefs and, of course, the Everglades, the only habitat of its kind on earth.

But I am deeply worried about Florida’s future. The carbon dioxide that is being pumped into our atmosphere and oceans from petroleum products made from fossil fuels place parts of Florida that I cherish at the very real risk of disappearing.

Of becoming extinct.

Of being lost.

Forever.

And those concerns, along with our State leaders total disregard for what is already happening, much less the threats that we face in the future, is part of the reason that I am suing our Governor and State of Florida.  Our climate change crisis is the biggest issue that my generation will ever face and it’s up to us, today’s children, to fix this problem. It is my hope that the court will rule to require that Florida enact and enforce laws to reduce and eliminate carbon emissions so that our state and citizens can have a future here.

I cherish my family home on No Name Key in the Florida Keys in Monroe County, an island that’s in the National Key Deer Refuge and the Great White Heron National Wildlife Refuge. No Name Key is filled with amazing, magical, creatures like the tiny Key Deer who make their home there but in a County whose average elevation above sea level is less than 6 feet, I wonder and worry about whether the Florida Keys, and my home, the deer and their habitat will survive a future where seas are projected to rise between at least two and six feet, or more, unless we take action now.

But when I wrote to the State of Florida’s Department of Environmental Resources to ask what they are doing about our climate change crisis and my sea level rise concerns and our overall region their response upsets and scares me. Here’s what they wrote in response:

To Delaney Reynolds; 

Unfortunately the response to both of these questions is “Not much”. The Governor has not supported climate related legislation and as a result not much is getting done at the State level. 

Sr. Administrator / Department of Environmental Resources, 

State of Florida

That response, the state’s “not much” response, is unacceptable and is another reason why I am suing Governor Scott and the State of Florida.

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This is me at 2 years of age at Matheson Hammock Beach. Unless we take action now, future generations will not be able to enjoy this special place like I did. 

And speaking of special places, Matheson Hammock is a wonderful public park that’s a short walk from my Miami home. It has an incredible path that winds its way through miles of mangrove forests as well as a marina and beach with a salt water swimming hole that overlooks downtown Miami and the ocean beyond. It’s a place that generations of South Floridians have enjoyed, a place where I learned to swim and where my father before me did too.

But it breaks my heart to see sea level rise covering the park’s paths, roads and beaches more each year and to know that someday soon, unless the State of Florida takes action to protect us, Matheson Hammock and places all over Florida like it will forever disappear. And that’s a tragedy that we cannot tolerate and yet another reason why I am suing the Governor and State.

Communities large and small all over Florida are already being forced to take action to address our climate crisis and when it comes to sea level rise, South Florida is literally ground zero for what’s happening here in the United States. Billions of dollars of real estate, as well as the tax revenue that goes with it is at risk.  Millions of people face the very real risk of being forced from our region and becoming climate change refugees. Much of our environment is literally at risk of extinction and yet our state’s political leaders avoid and deny the reality that our citizens increasingly face and leave it to locals to try and address this enormous issue. Examples include:

1. Miami Beach is spending nearly half a billion dollars to begin addressing the flooding from sea level rise that already consumes their community.

2. Last year City of Miami voters passed the Miami Forever Bond including $200 million towards sea level rise mitigation. Of course they did, flooding from seal rise has become a way of life here.

3. The City of South Miami passed a historic solar power law last year, the first of its type in Florida, a law that I proudly played a role in conceiving and helped to write, that requires residential solar power as a step to reduce carbon emissions.

4. Miami-Dade, Broward, Monroe and Palm Beach Counties have banded together to create the South Florida Climate Change Compact because of the dire risks that our entire region faces.

In each of these cases concerned citizens and local leaders have come to realize that we must take action if South Florida is to have a chance to have a future. And yet, Florida’s Governor mocks us by denying that human caused climate change and sea level rise is an issue by saying that he has no view on these topics because, as he likes to say, he’s “not a scientist”.

Well, most of the people in our region are not scientists, but they do have eyes and can see that the water and temperature are rising, and that climate change is already affecting their ability to live a happy life here.  The science and facts related to human induced climate change and sea level rise are indisputable and you do not need to be a scientist to see this and, thus, another reason I am suing is to help those communities, and the people who live in them, all over Florida that are desperately fighting our climate crisis without help from the Governor or State of Florida.

And I am suing the State and Governor on behalf of those who can’t but will be highly impacted by this growing catastrophe including:

1. Our natural environment and the unique habitats and creatures that will be lost or displaced without action. Take, for example, a place that’s hidden from most people’s view, our underwater environment including the Florida Reef Track, a 360-mile-long ancient coral reef that runs from the St. Lucie Inlet in Martin County to the Dry Tortugas National Park, West of the Florida Keys. It’s the third largest reef in the world and home to millions of marine animals but it IS at risk of extinction from ocean acidification caused by man-made carbon dioxide from fossil fuels.  Why would any of us allow that to happen?

2. Millions of people who face a future where they are at risk of becoming climate refuges unless we take action. People who will be forced to move from places they love and, in many cases, where their forefathers have lived for generations.

3. And people whose health will be severely impacted, especially the youngest and oldest in our society, as temperatures continue to climb.

4. And people too young to speak out today, as well as those not yet born but who have the undeniable right to enjoy a safe, clean, natural environment. A right that the State and our Governor are stealing from all of us by not taking action before it’s too late.

The good news is that there are solutions and the sooner we begin widely implementing them the better chance we have to save Florida and the less costly it will be to fix the problem. The bad news is that the State of Florida and our Governor have done little to nothing to begin solving the problem and that’s another reason why I am suing.

For example, experts predict that solar power can produce HALF of Florida’s energy needs by the time I’m 45 years or so old if our State would just become serious about sustainable energy and stop playing politics by protecting the established, polluting power companies.  My local power company in Miami, Florida Power & Light, has been in business for nearly 100 years in a place nicknamed ‘The Sunshine State” yet produces less than half of 1% of its power from solar. Now that makes NO sense.

For a Governor who likes to campaign for office by touting job creation it also makes no sense that he’s not embraced growing solar power for Florida. Experts predict that transitioning Florida to a renewable energy system would create over 300,000 good, well paying, long term jobs.

And, of course, let’s not forget that widely expanding solar power everywhere will save consumers a LOT of money while also helping save our environment.

So, while the Governor and State of Florida appear dedicated to the polluting ways of the past, I am hoping that our future will be filled with sustainable power and that The Sunshine State will become THE Solar State.

Allow me to end by sharing how much I enjoyed Ms. Hamann’s Civics & History class in 8th Grade.  Not only was she incredibly engaging, entertaining and nice, but I learned many important lessons from her about the three branches of our government:

1. The Executive branch where our Governor and his Cabinet are located,

2. The Legislative branch where Representatives and Senators serve,

3. And the Judicial branch where our state’s legal system operates to help protect us.

I am suing the State and our Governor because the Executive and Legislative branches have miserably failed to protect us and our environment from the climate change crisis. They have failed to honor their legal duties in the Florida Constitution and The Public Trust Doctrine by not protecting our Public Trust Resources and it is my hope that the Court will:

1. Affirm that our atmosphere is a Public Trust Resource,

2. Rule that the State has a fiduciary responsibility to protect our atmosphere, waters, land, marine resources, beaches and other Public Trust Resources from waste,

3. Affirm that the State has breached its responsibility to reduce Florida’s carbon emissions,

4. Rule that the State be forced to prepare and implement a remediation plan, and

5. Require the State to create the laws necessary to enact that plan so as to reduce Florida’s carbon emissions to safe levels that are based on scientific facts

As stewards of our state I believe that we have a moral obligation to solve our climate crisis and it is my hope that our legal system will help me draw a line in the sand so as to stop the damage and begin implementing solutions while Florida’s beaches still have sand on them.

Before it’s too late.

I want to end this blog post by congratulating my co-Plaintiffs, the seven children that are standing with me to fight our Governor and the State. Thanks to Levi, Isaac, Luxha, Andres, Oscar, Oliver and Valholly.  You are brave and passionate beyond words and I know that I speak for countless people when I say how grateful I am for your commitment and passion to helping me solve our climate change crisis.

I also want to end by thanking our exceptional legal team, our attorneys, as well as the incredible team at Our Children’s Trust for all your help.  On behalf of all the children, and the generations that will come after us, thanks to Guy Burns, Andrea Rodgers, Meg Ward, Caitlin Howard, Dick Jacobs, Mitchell Chester, Sandy D’Alemberte, Wally Pope, Jane West, Erin Deady, Deb Swim, and Matthew Schultz.

To learn more about the lawsuit and the organization helping Florida’s children seek justice, please visit Our Children’s Trust by clicking here or Youth V. Gov by clicking here.

Of Course They Knew

We owe thanks to Jelmer Mommers, a Dutch journalist who has uncovered Shell Oil Company reports dating to the 1980’s that prove that this global fossil fuel petrol company has known for many decades that their products are destroying our planet, warming its climate and causing seas to rise.

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From Shell’s 1988 report aptly entitled “The Greenhouse Effect”:

“by the time global warming becomes detectable it could be too late to take effective countermeasures to reduce the effects or even to stabilize the situation.”

They knew.

Shell concluded that as of 1988 their company was generating 4% of world-wide carbon-dioxide emissions from the products it produces: oil, natural gas and coal.

They knew.

And as has happened, the 1988 report, which can be found here, correctly predicted that by the late 20th or early 21st century scientists would be able to conclude that our climate’s severe warming was, you guessed it, caused by these products and the carbon dioxide they emit into our atmosphere and oceans.

And what did they do armed with “The Greenhouse Effect report”? They covered it up, of course. For another decade they were a member of something called the Global Climate Coalition, a trade group whose purpose was to deceive the public by producing propaganda that attempted to question or discredit the scientific truth, the truth that their own experts had provided to their company leadership in that 1988 report. Talk about crimes against humanity.

They knew.

Their own report concluded that as of 1981, 99% of carbon-dioxide emitted into our atmosphere came from the products that Shell and their competitors produce. From their own report:

44% of carbon-dioxide emissions came from oil,

38% from coal and

17% from natural gas.

Their report also includes an analysis about the impact of a warming climate including sea level rise, acidification and the impact of rising temperatures on people including how this will force us to migrate to other places as our environment is destroyed by their products. It even suggests strategies to deal with the problem including a recommendation that they take political action as soon as possible and not wait for more people to see more obvious changes in our climate such as those they predicted would be apparent (and is now evident) in the decades after the report.

They knew.

In fact, they have all known for decades that the products they make and humans pay for and use are destroying earth’s environment and warming our climate to catastrophic levels. And one can conclude that they covered it up time and time and time again because it’s bad for business to have the public know you are destroying the only planet we have, and along with that our children’s future.

And when I say “they” I don’t, of course, mean only Shell (Royal Dutch Shell) but every large and small oil company and nation including EXXON, Chevron, Valero, Marathon, Conoco, BP and every other maker and distributor of fossil fuel products. Saudi’s Aramco, China’s Sinopec, National Petro Corp and Petro China, Brazil’s Petrobras and on and on.

Every car manufacturer knows the truth too and yet they are successfully lobbying our President and his EPA Director RIGHT NOW to relax emissions rules so they can keep selling the products that emit the pollution for as long as possible.

And every utility company knows too. They can run all of the “slick” ads they like about how low their rates are or how much they love solar but they are not being honest with you. As I have mentioned here before, our own local utility, FP&L, produces less than half of 1% of its energy from solar and that’s because they would rather use coal, natural gas and nuclear energy over the last nearly 100 years they’ve been in business instead of robustly investing in sustainable solutions like the widespread use of solar power.

And you know who else knows and actively plays along in the cover-up and lying game? Politicians such as Florida’s Governor Rick Scott, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, EPA Director Scott Pruitt, and, of course, U.S. President Donald Trump. They and the others that protect and perpetuate the fossil fuel firms like Shell and the products that emit the pollution, the established utilities, car makers and the rest, all know.

Of course they knew, they all did. “The Greenhouse Effect” report only adds to the growing pile of irrefutable scientific evidence and facts that prove carbon-dioxide from fossil fuel products has most certainly caused our global climate crisis. Anyone that suggests otherwise, that these products are not warming our planet to disastrous levels, is wasting our time. Time we simply don’t have to waste.

The question is now that we know, what are the rest of us going to do to fix the problem before it’s too late?

To learn more about “The Greenhouse Effect” please click here for an excellent article from The Washington Post by Steven Mufson and Chris Mooney.   

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