February 10, 2013

Unintended consequences - ocean habitat

The Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act (PDF) was passed in 1953 and amended several times (lastly in 2000). One of the things it covers is the removal of offshore oil and gas rigs one year after they are no longer in service. The Federal Government is doing this and in so doing, destroying a vibrant fishery and marine habitat. These rigs are like coral reefs and support a huge population. From the Pacific Standard:
Gulf Coast Oil Platforms: Save the Rigs?
This year, it’s likely more than 100 offshore structures in the Gulf of Mexico will be removed as part of a Department of the Interior plan. There are 650 nonproducing oil and gas platforms, known in the industry as “idle iron,” listed for removal “as soon as possible”—i.e. within five years of the end of production or a year of losing the lease—under Interior’s directive. Historically, companies seldom removed an idle structure until the lease for the area where it was located expired.

Having companies clean up after themselves sounds like a good idea, but many recreational fishermen, scuba divers, scientists, and fishery managers aren’t happy about it. Turns out, some of the 2,500 multileg platforms that pepper the Gulf of Mexico have become de facto artificial reefs. According to Bob Shipp, University of South Alabama’s Department of Marine Sciences, the platforms have transformed the entire ecosystem. Some marine species are attracted to platforms for shelter or food, but others—sea fans, sponges, algae, and reef fish—spend their entire life cycle on these structures. What’s more, some species have increased in number because of the platforms.
Nothing the government touches ever comes out quite right... Mobile, Alabama station WPMI has some more:
Explosive Fed. Mandate Killing Thousands of Red Snapper
A federal mandate to remove old, abandoned oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico is blowing up a lot more than just the rigs.

Undercover video obtained by Local 15 shows thousands of pounds of dead fish, mostly red snapper, floating to the surface after one of the controversial demolitions in the Gulf.

“Good Lord,” marine scientist Dr. Bob Shipp said, when Local 15 showed him the video. “As a scientist, I think it’s abominable.”

Shipp said the demolitions are frequent, sometimes three a week in the Gulf, but are seldom video-taped. Shipp also sits on the Gulf Fisheries Management Council, and has been a strong opponent of the demolitions.

“It’s a double whammy,” Shipp said, “Not only are we killing a lot of snapper, but we’re also destroying their habitat.”

The old rigs are an eye-sore, but under the surface, they’ve developed into artificial reefs with rich coral habitats. On some of the older rigs, those habitats have grown over the course of 30 to 40 years.

The killing of the red snapper is also infuriating charter boat captains and anglers. Federal restrictions keep cutting the red snapper season shorter and quotas smaller to protect the species from over-fishing.

“They tell us not to fish [red snapper] but they’re blowing them up,” charter boat Captain Jason Domange told Local 15, “It’s a cryin’ shame.”

The confidential source who provided Local 15 the video estimated 10,000 pounds of fish, mostly red snapper, were killed after that one demolition.

”That’s a year’s salary for a lot of people and that’s just going to waste,” Domange said.
Some faceless government bureaucrat sitting in an office 1,200 miles away is making policy decisions that impact the environment and people's lives. This is a perfect example of something that should be handled on a state basis -- where is the tenth amendment when you need it... Posted by DaveH at February 10, 2013 11:23 AM
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