Skip to comments.Fish Find Home in California Oil Platforms (Califorinia 2006)
Posted on 08/04/2008 6:35:26 PM PDT by Jet Jaguar
Marine biologist Milton Love drives a hybrid car, displays a banner of left-wing revolutionary Che Guevara on his laboratory wall - and has backing from Big Oil.
The reason: his finding that oil platforms off California's central coast are a haven for species of fish whose numbers have been dramatically reduced by overfishing.
That is good news to oil executives, who are looking for reasons not to pay hundreds of millions of dollars to remove the platforms once the crude stops flowing.
Environmentalists say oil companies are simply trying to escape their obligations.
"Just because fish are there doesn't mean the platform constitutes habitat," says Linda Krop, an attorney for the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center. "That's like taking a picture of birds on a telephone wire and saying it's essential habitat."
The 27 platforms - skeletal-looking structures that house dormitories, offices and massive pumps - were installed over the past four decades and now produce 72,000 barrels of oil a day. Environmentalists and coastal residents despise them for spoiling the view and disrupting the ocean's ecology.
Federal law requires oil companies to remove the platforms when operations are complete, though no one knows whether it will be years or decades before the deposits under the sea floor run out.
Oil companies already are pressing state and federal officials to keep the rigs in place, citing Love's finding that platforms provide homes for bocaccio, cowcod and other fish.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said last week it might consider the idea but wants to know more about the effects of oil platforms on marine life.
Since the 1950s, when heavy fishing began in the region, some species of fish have been reduced to 6 percent of their previous numbers, according to Love. Some fisheries have closed, and the fishing fleet has shrunk by a third.
Love, a researcher at the University of California at Santa Barbara, films fish from a submarine and then counts them in his lab. He says some platforms are surrounded with fish packed as tightly as "cocktail wieners in a can."
"If anyone wants to come up and count the fish, we'll provide the first beer," Love says. "But they're going to have to bring the rest. And they're going to need a few cases because we have 11 years of research."
Love gets about 80 percent of his research money from the government and the rest from the California Artificial Reef Enhancement Program, a nonprofit group funded almost entirely by oil companies. It has contributed about $100,000 a year to Love's research since 1999, executive director George Steinbach says.
Love says no amount of oil money can sway his research - fish either cluster at the platforms or they don't. And because they do, he says his personal opinion is that the rigs should stay in place, cut below the waterline so that ships can pass safely over them.
"If you remove a platform you'll kill many millions of animals," he says.
Environmentalists say if the platforms were removed, fish would return to the underwater boulder fields and rocky outcroppings that form natural reefs along the Southern California coast.
In the Gulf of Mexico, more than 200 rigs have been converted into artificial reefs, either by toppling them or by lopping them off.
Krop, the environmental lawyer, says rig-to-reef conversions make more sense in the Gulf of Mexico because the waters there have a mud bottom and fewer natural reefs.
Converting platforms between Long Beach and Point Conception north of Santa Barbara could be $600 million to $1 billion cheaper than removing them, Steinbach says. He says the oil companies would contribute up to half their savings to state conservation programs.
Widespread opposition from environmentalists and residents has killed legislation that would have allowed such a deal.
The Texas State Aquarium has an oil-platform exhibit, showing the kinds of fish that live in this environment.
We have fished the oil derricks for decades its the heat and pilings i say dril drill drill
We who fish call this “structure”.
‘Xactly what I was thinking.
Yeah, like docks and lifts and trees and rocks............
It good for the fish. Fish like stuff to hang around.
Like caribou and the pipelines in Alaska.
You get it.
I get it.
This cannot be that difficult.
Bump the FReepathon thread.
This has been a surprise in many quarters. Any diver will tell you that wrecks are great places to dive, since they provide an artificial reef for fish. It would be ironic if old oil platforms became big time recreational diving reefs.
Much of the ocean bottom in most areas is basically the land equivalent of a desert, until you introduce a reef.
I wish they would lighten up the environmental requirements for sinking old navy vessels as reefs as well.
So I hear. I’ve done more fishing in farm ponds, but even there, a few old stoves provide fish habitat!
Another soft science nerd who never worked a hard day in his life and gets paid to play in the surf all day. These types of "scientists" are useless, IMHO.
This woman is a real idiot!
And with structure, there is life.
We call them “cribs”. The fish congregate there to feed, spawn and raise their wee’uns.
Every angler on the Louisiana and Texas coast knows that the best places to fish are near the drilling platforms.
Don’t “Environmentalists” just drive you nuts? No amount of facts about successful fish populations will change their minds.
Humberto Fontova has an interesting take on platform fisheries here: Helldivers
This guy didn't jigger the numbers to "discover" what he wanted to see - he's not some "AlGore type scientist" finding whatever backs his politics. If he can handle the truth, he's NOT useless.
They’re not interested in facts or the truth.
They set their agenda and that is all they care about.
Exactly. Human intervention is great for many animal populations (coyotes on your street? I’ve got ‘em!) but try getting an “environmentalist” to acknowledge that.