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News media and fisheries-independent data reveal hidden impacts of hurricanes


Climate change will likely intensify hurricane activity in coastal regions. A thorough understanding of hurricane impacts to marine fauna is necessary to prepare for and mitigate potential impacts to social systems dependent upon adjacent fauna. Yet, research attention, conservation funding, and policy all can be biased toward taxa of societal interest, potentially favoring a limited understanding of hurricane impacts. Here, we analyzed the frequency of mentions of taxa in newspaper articles in relation to hurricane activity at three coastal US locations coupled with analysis of long-term fisheries-independent data. While economically important taxa dominate media discourse, we observed long-term hurricane-related abundance declines in ecologically important taxa having little direct human utility. We conclude that there is a potential for research and policy biases related to hurricane impacts. Preparation and mitigation efforts will benefit from researchers and managers making directed efforts to identify and incorporate hurricane sensitive taxa into their work.

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  1. Marshall, Bob. “TREADING WATER – Fishing in the metro area has shown signs of recovery, but there is growing concern for coastal land loss and the future of this habitat.” The Times-Picayune (New Orleans, LA), 26 August 2007, p. 10. (Accessed December 9, 2021 via Newsbank).

  2. Martin, Greg. “Storm boosted commercial fishing – Opinions vary on hurricane impact.” Englewood Sun (FL), 27 December 2004. (Accessed December 9, 2021 via Newsbank).

  3. Gibson, Steve. “Tails of woe – Sightfishing for tailing redfish is popular, but it’s not fast action on numbers of fish.” Sarasota Herald-Tribune (FL), 19 December 2004. p. C8. (Accessed December 9, 2021 via Newsbank).


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This work was supported by the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) under funding received from the National Science Foundation [DBI-1639145]. SFJ was additionally supported by NSF Grant Numbers 1638704 and 1754265, and in part by the Cornell Atkinson Center for Sustainability. AS was partially supported by NSF GRFP number 1645627. Opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. We thank N. Motzer and J. Kramer at SESYNC for valuable assistance during this project. Thanks to D. Blewett at FFWCC, D. Zapf at NCDMF, and N. Smith with LDWF for assistance obtaining the datasets used in this study and for answering questions related to the data. The authors would like to thank K. Limburg and D. Blewett for comments that helped to improve this manuscript.

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Correspondence to Stephen F. Jane.

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Jane, S.F., Smith, K.M., Baker, D. et al. News media and fisheries-independent data reveal hidden impacts of hurricanes. Ambio 51, 2169–2181 (2022).

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  • Climate change
  • Estuaries
  • Fish
  • Fisheries
  • Hurricanes
  • News media