Ultra Music Festival has grown into one of the biggest annual events within the electronic music community since launching two decades ago. The festival, which takes place in March during Miami Music Week, has called the city of Miami its home since it began taking place along the shores of the Florida city in 1999. Following a notable location change in 2019, the festival’s relationship with the city of Miami may be in doubt as a new scientific report shows how the event is not only affecting traffic and local residents but the environment as well–most notably, the fish.
According to a new report from local news outlet Key News, scientists are claiming that fish who also call Miami their home “suffered excess levels of stress” due to the loud music pumped through the air (and into the water) by artists at Ultra Music Festival last month.
Apparently, the soundwaves caused fish to experience stress levels higher than what they experience when swimming for their lives while being chased by predators. Scientists even went so far as to collect blood samples from Gulf toadfish in hopes of assessing the stress levels by monitoring the stress hormone cortisol.
“Ultra was causing short-term, acute stress on our fish,” Danielle McDonald, a professor of marine biology at the University of Miami, said in a statement of their biological findings.
While the report presented to the city’s Virginia Key Advisory Board earlier this week did acknowledge that sound levels being pumped through the air from the event sound systems rarely exceeded 80 decibels (slightly below the dB level of a lawnmower), the noise levels in the University of Miami’s fish tanks were actually higher by an average of 10 dB, matching the same level of audio power as that of power tools or household blenders. To collect the data, sound recordings were collected from the air at the University’s Experimental Hatchery, in water tanks that house Gulf toadfish, in the shallow waters near the shoreline, and in the water of Lamar Lake at Virginia Key Beach North Point close to where the event took place.
“Despite being well within the permitted limits,” reads the report, “the noise pollution caused by the Ultra Music Festival led to significant elevations of noise in tanks at the UMEH (average increase of 10 dB) and toadfish housed in these tanks experienced a clear, and statistically significant, stress response.”
The implications of this study on the future of the festival are unclear. It’s worth noting that Ultra moved to a new location in 2019, relocating to Virginia Key after spending seven years at Downtown Miami’s Bayfront Park. Now, the Advisory Board has adopted a resolution recommending the City of Miami revoke its agreement with Ultra promoters for next year’s event due to any traffic and noise issues which arose in its first year at the new location, although not everyone on the Board feels the need to cancel the event entirely. Miami City Commission has until May 9th to make a decision on the fishy situation.