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How Does a Hurricane Affect Life Underwater?

Sport Fishing in Key Largo | Fantastic II Charters

On most cases, when hurricane season hits, it is not a matter of ‘if’ but ‘when’ will it hit our coasts, and after it does, the only thing that’s left for us to do is to deal with the effects that the hurricane has left inland in the best possible way, but do you know how marine life is affected and what happens underwater when a hurricane passes overhead? Let’s take a look…

A hurricane affects the ocean’s normal properties

On a normal day, the upper levels of the ocean are warmer and less salty, and colder, saltier water lies below these warm surface layers. When a hurricane hits, it stirs and mixes everything up. The consequences: a muddled, saltier, colder and homogeneous surface water and warmer,  less salty deep water offshore, but in coastal areas, the fresh cold rain from the hurricane can have the opposite effect, reducing temperature and salinity on the surface.

Strong hurricanes can generate 60’+ waves at the ocean surface, which doesn’t really affect anything unless there is a boat or a specific structure nearby, but below the surface, the currents caused by those waves can be quite destructive, as strong currents and turbulence tend to remain up to a week after the hurricane has passed.

Hurricane effects on marine life

Studies conducted near the Florida Keys and all around the Caribbean Sea have shown that after a hurricane, coral cover is reduced up to 20% depending on its intensity. This reduction in the amount of coral cover can be the result of strong currents and turbulence breaking the coral during the storm, or of several days of muddied water, which reduces the amount of sunlight that coral tissue gets, affecting its life and reproduction.

A hurricane has a strong impact on marine animals that depend on coral reefs for protection, feeding and mating. Hurricanes and strong storms are known to result in a high number of dead marine species like sea turtles, fish, crabs, etc. that die either by the reduction of coral cover or due to the reduction of dissolved oxygen in the water, changes in salinity and surf.

Although large species like sharks, dolphins, marlins and other type of large fish don’t seem to be directly affected by the hurricane since they can detect changes in pressure and surge and go deeper to avoid the storm, they are affected as the food they usually found in reefs is no longer there.

At Key Largo, we are familiarized with hurricane season, and know for a fact that when a storm is announced it is not a matter of ‘if’ but of ‘when’ will it hit our coasts, and although at Fantastic II Charters, we are aware that there is nothing we can do to stop the damage, we do everything in our hands to fish responsibly always looking after the safety of our customers and the environment.