Publication Date

2012-06-18

Availability

Open access

Embargo Period

2012-06-18

Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)

Department

Marine Affairs and Policy (Marine)

Date of Defense

2012-05-24

First Committee Member

Liana Talaue-McManus

Second Committee Member

Joseph E. Serafy

Third Committee Member

Maria L. Estevanez

Abstract

The Turkey Point Nuclear Generating Station (TPNGS) is a nuclear power plant situated on the shores of Biscayne Bay, FL. The fringing mangrove shoreline of Biscayne Bay provides essential habitat for a variety of ecologically and commercially important species of fish. There is concern among stakeholders that proposed expansion at TPNGS may pose environmental risks. The goal of this thesis was to investigate current status of knowledge of environmental risk to the nearshore fish communities inhabiting the mangroves adjacent to TPNGS. Specific objectives included: 1) examining perception of environmental risk from TPNGS by stakeholder groups in the environmental regulatory arena; 2) establishing baseline trends in fish community metrics of mangrove fish populations in the vicinity of TPNGS; 3) evaluating the logistical efficiency of current fish community sampling methods for detecting relevant indicators of change in this location. Results of a targeted, qualitative study of stakeholder perceptions indicated that perceptions held by stakeholders relating to the need for increased nuclear generating capacity, environmental threats to Biscayne Bay, risk to Biscayne Bay specific to TPNGS; and transparency, efficacy and equity within the permitting process, were often highly diverse. The diversity of perception, itself a result of a combination of uncertainty and differences in information accessibility, jurisdictional proximity to the site, and other factors, contributes to the list of challenges faced by decision-makers in the environmental assessment process. Based on perceived environmental risk to the nearshore habitat identified in the perception study, I evaluated the ability of an ongoing mangrove shoreline fish community monitoring effort of the wider Biscayne Bay and southern sounds to detect changes on three spatial scales relevant to TPNGS. Results indicated that patterns in taxonomic richness, total fish density and frequency of occurrence of a key species, gray snapper (Lutjanus griseus), were highly seasonal. Current mangrove fish community monitoring effort in the vicinity of TPNGS is sufficient to detect subtle changes in the metrics of taxonomic richness and total fish density on a seasonal basis. However, sampling effort would need to be increased to effectively detect change in gray snapper occurrence in the dry season at each spatial scale. Using a precautionary approach, efficient monitoring studies can be developed based on this preliminary analysis. The study provided insight into the complex interaction of the socio-cultural dimension of environmental policy with the natural resources being regulated.

Keywords

environmental risk perception; power analysis; nuclear power; mangrove fish

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