Perhaps not the first thing you should be concerned with given the severity of the situation, but something all anglers are curious of. With high winds, brutal currents, and drastic temperature changes being a few of the countless variables, what is the extent of damage hurricanes have on fishing grounds? Here are some ways these storms alter our coasts.
Hurricanes are generally created when warmer ocean waters interact with especially humid air. In these situations, the interaction between the water and air creates a constantly turning imbalance of current and wind. As they make their way toward land, they can cause major damage to important aspects of marine habitat.
How do hurricanes affect reefs?
As a hurricane approaches shallow waters of reefs and other structures, deep column currents extending hundreds of feet below the surface batter the existing habitat. As cool and warm water are interchanged in a violent whirlpool, tides cause sea levels to drastically flood and recede. This shocking and aggressive force, is enough to lay waste to reefs on its own, but is also accompanied by captured debris.
If the forces of the current and debris are not enough, it isn't uncommon for large sections of reef to die off after hurricanes due to pollution in the water that blocks off sunlight and starves the organisms of nutrients.
Though the impact is typically negative, there have been circumstances where reefs have flourished after tropical storms and hurricanes. The mixing of the water and currents can deliver rich nutrients to shallows that may be encountering excessively warm and non-ideal conditions. This typically occurs where damage from debris is minimal and other pollutants are not introduced.
How do hurricanes affect inshore waters?
Inshore bodies arguably suffer the most from these types of storms. They are bombarded by abnormal tides and experience instances of complete dryness due to strong storm surges. These swings can push fish and other animals far inland and leave them stranded, or pull them way out to sea with no way back to safety. Apart from fish, manatees have even been known to get stranded inland or get taken far out into the ocean where they can become disoriented and ultimately perish.
Inshore species can be delicate due to the varying levels of salinity. Although many fish in these conditions can withstand a small change in brackish to freshwater, the drastic swings are often fatal. This along with pollutants blocking gills from capturing oxygen equate to massive die-offs. For these reasons, it was estimated that nearly 9.4 million fresh/saltwater fish were lost as a result of Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
How do hurricanes affect freshwater lakes?
Just because a body of water is not directly connected to the ocean, doesn't mean it is safe. Flooding from incredible amounts of rain, debris from 100+mph winds, and harsh water changes can all lead to tragedy. In the same fashion as the coastal waters, flooding and debris are detrimental to the safety of a fishery. Regardless of depth, fish need habitat to stay safe and survive storms. With these changes, much of this structure is put to the test.
Along with these variables, temperature swings and winds can cause lakes to overturn rapidly of not very deep and established. Although this happens consistently at certain times of year, water overturning can introduce less than ideal conditions for the wildlife attempting to survive the storm. This can also be beneficial, bringing cool and oxygen-rich conditions to the surface.
(pic: Yahoo! Sports)
How do hurricanes affect the fishing industry?
This may come as no surprise, but hurricanes do not fare well for local fishing industry and beyond. We live in a world of supply chain issues. Already, supply is low and demand is extremely high for most items in the sport. This goes for boats, gear, and trips.
Hurricanes Harvey and Irma alone accounted for over 60,000 boats being either damaged or destroyed. During Hurricane Katrina, 90% of fishing boats were destroyed. When you begin to think about the rods, reels, tackle, electronics, and all else on those vessels, it begins to introduce a much larger issue.
Yes. The cost to replace these components is immense. Yeah, we suppose you can say "that's what insurance is for". But in reality, this is the end of fishing for many anglers. Some will never get another boat, never replace their gear, and never get on the water again. Insurance can only do so much, especially when millions are in the same situation. If the past has taught us anything, it is that you never truly get everything back.
If these unfortunate anglers are to get a new boat, replace their gear, and get back in the game, they will likely be met with multiple months, if not well over a year, of wait lists. This also means even those on the other side of the world will be met with challenges when it comes to purchasing the latest fishing supplies.
So what do you do in this situation? Offer to help out. Get involved in a fishing club. Donate some of your unused gear to someone in need. Offer up a trip on your boat. Most importantly, don't let that love for fishing die. When it all boils down, fishing is a privilege and a passion. Helping those in need after tragedy is all we can really control.