Ultra Music Festival first emerged out of south Florida’s decadent party scene two decades ago and has since grown into one of the biggest annual events within the electronic music community. The festival, which takes place every March during Miami Music Week, has called the city of Miami its home since 1999. Following a notable location change in 2019, however, the festival’s relationship with the city of Miami may be in doubt going forward, as a new scientific report details how the event not only affects the local infrastructure but the environment as well–most notably, the fish.
According to a new report from local news outlet Key News, scientists in the south Florida region are claiming the fish that also call Miami their home have “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 the local fish to experience higher stress levels than what they experience when swimming for their lives while being chased by predators. Scientists quoted in the report 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 higher noise levels from the event’s professional 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 electronic tools or household blenders.
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 to be used as collective data for the study.
“Despite being well within the permitted limits,” reads the preliminary 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 at the moment. It’s worth noting, however, 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 that 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.