Did you know that fish have their own skyscrapers down under?
Not for long if people don’t stop condemning all oil and gas rigs as threats to nature.
The use of artificial reefs is one of the more unusual developments recently in ocean conservation. Environments for fish to congregate were created using old ships and old subway cars in areas of the sea floor that are otherwise bare and featureless.
Oil and natural gas rigs that dot the state’s coastline, considered a different kind of artificial reef has been the subject of a submarine study that looked into the productivity of fish that used the structure as their habitat.
Typical Oil And Gas Offshore Platform
It may sound strange as people have always known offshore oil and natural gas platforms to be associated with different structures including:
- a hull – tanker hulls
- a power module – fuel is converted into power for the station
- a process module – where supplies and products are onboarded and offloaded
- a drilling module – traditional drilling rig apparatus
- a quarters module – quarters for crew to sleep and eat
- a wellbay module – access to the well and other equipment
- a derrick – oil derrick
Most Productive Fish Artificial Reef: California Oil Rigs
The study found out that fish are 27 times more productive under oil and gas rig platforms than they are on reefs off the coast of California. And this is not only within the California coast. Compared with all natural marine habitats all around the world, the California rigs boast 10 times more fish.
According to study leader, Jeremy Claisse of Occidental College in Los Angeles, their team found that fish production rates around individual oil rigs tend to be 10 times higher than comparable estimates in other highly productive marine habitats including:
Fish Abundance And Species Surveyed
Surveyed by the research team each year from 1995 to 2011 – for five to as many as 15 years are 16 oil or gas platforms and seven rocky reefs . An annual survey was performed with a remote-operated vehicle, assessing fish abundance and species visually.
The team counted how many fish, and of what size, each habitat is associated with. Then they worked out the weight / biomass of fish supported each year in each area per square meter of sea floor. The team only included fish within 2 meters of each rig that were clearly residing there and excluded the fish that were just passing through.
Highest Reef Productivity Is Lowest Oil Rig Productivity
The research team found that the most productive places in the scientific literature are a reef in Tahiti and an estuary in Louisiana, with an annual productivity of about 75 grams per square meter of sea floor. The lowest productivity recorded at the oil rigs was 105 grams per square meter of sea floor per year while the highest recorded productivity rate was 887 grams per square meter of sea floor per year.
Skyscraper Living Down Under
According to Claisse, this may be attributed to the huge surface of rig substructure which spans the whole water column, from surface to sea floor, which is unlike natural reefs. That gave the fish a marine equivalent of a skyscraper. Claisse further explained that the oil rig platform structures support a diverse community of invertebrates that provide the base of the food web along with floating resources such as plankton, which support fish living around the platform. Some of the oil rig platforms act as nurseries for your rockfish.
High Three-Dimensional Complexity
Daniel Jones of the UK’s National Oceanography Center in Southampton, who is not part of the research team, agrees with Claisse that the habitat provided by the oil rig platforms gives high three-dimensional complexity which allows the fish populations to reach much higher levels than in other natural habitats.
Oil Rigs Are Ideal Fish Habitats
This goes to show that oil rigs seem to be ideal structures for fish, which actually poses both an opportunity and a problem. The world has more than 7,500 oil and gas platforms spread in the oceans around the world. Expectedly, all of these platforms will eventually cease operation after many years of producing oil and gas. The next step that is likely to take place is the removal of the equipment along with all the big and small component parts from the drilling rig apparatus, cranes and booms, to the small spare parts for mud pumps and other mechanical components, such as black plastic washers, screws, bolts and nuts. In a perfect world, this is the most environmentally friendly option. But given the findings of the study, removing the structures may not be the best thing for the local ecosystem.
Reconsider Removal Of Decommissioned Offshore Platforms
And while some advocates are bent on their belief that the ocean should be devoid of all man-made structures, regardless if they are productive habitats for marine life, the research team hopes that their findings will help policy-makers to come to a balanced decision when considering the fate of decommissioned and obsolete oil rig platforms.
Engineer New Renewable Energy Structures To Boost Local Marine Life
Further studies should be made to investigate the rig habitats and identify the structural features that might have helped fish to thrive in such an environment. Results of such investigation may then be incorporated in engineering the newer offshore structures associated with renewable energy to boost local marine life.
People may not stop complaining about wind turbines blocking their view but maybe they should answer this question:
Which is more important, their so-called good view or the source of food for mankind?