New Federal Policy May Destroy Artificial Reefs and Popular Fishing Grounds in the Gulf of Mexico
The Rigs to Reefs Habitat Protection Act will keep these valuable fish habitats in place
Do you know where the world's most productive artificial reefs are located? If you guessed the Gulf of Mexico - you're correct. Non-productive oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico are generally regarded as the most productive artificial reefs in the world. These structures provide habitat for dozens of fish species, including many recreationally important species.
Despite the habitat that they create for marine animals and the fishing opportunities that they create for anglers, the U.S. Department of the Interior has issued a directive to remove all idle oil rigs from the Gulf of Mexico. These platforms serve as huge vertical reefs offering structure and coral where otherwise there would be only barren, smooth bottom.
This misguided directive will remove vital marine habitat and degrade the recreational fishing experience. Fortunately, Senator Vitter (R-LA) has introduced legislation that will allow these structures to remain in the Gulf and serve as vibrant artificial reefs with all the accompanying benefits to marine life.
The Rigs to Reefs Habitat Protection Act of 2011 (S. 1555) will require a full assessment of whether a platform supports coral or other protected species, as well as those of recreational or commercial value, before a determination is made whether or not to remove the platform. Under the Act, platforms supporting substantial reef ecosystems would be allowed to remain in the Gulf as artificial reefs – protecting habitat and sportfishing opportunity.