Rigs to Reefs in the Gulf of Mexico
Offshore oil and gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico serve as valuable marine habitat, supporting economically important recreational fishing in the Gulf region. These platforms serve as huge vertical reefs offering structure and coral where otherwise there would be only barren, smooth bottom.
Since 2006, removal of platforms has exceeded installations. For example, in 2010, 161 were removed while only 23 platforms were installed, and these installations were typically further from shore and therefore less accessible to anglers. Only approximately 10 percent of all eligible platforms in the Gulf of Mexico have been converted into artificial reefs, while the rest have been removed.
In the face of increasing attention on the removal of these important fish structures, in June, 2013, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) released an amended “Rigs to Reefs” policy that will make it easier to turn inactive platforms into new artificial reefs. The new policy supports and encourages the use of obsolete oil and gas structures as artificial reefs; provides greater opportunities for reefing by reducing the five-mile buffer zone between reefing areas to two miles; allows for reefing in place when appropriate in Special Artificial Reef Sites; and provides for extensions to regulatory decommissioning deadlines for companies actively pursuing a “Rigs to Reefs” proposal.
In Louisiana from 2009 to 2011, $44.6 million intended for the “Rigs to Reefs” program, which converts old decommissioned offshore oil platforms into productive fishing reefs, was funneled towards other unrelated purposes. On Election Day in 2014, Louisiana passed Amendment 8 which will prohibit this from happening again by creating the Artificial Reef Development Fund. Instead, the funds would be used to enhance inshore fisheries habitat and ensure “Rigs to Reefs” continues to maintain idle oil rigs in the Gulf that foster diverse populations of reef fish, all at ZERO cost to taxpayers.
KeepAmericaFishing continues to explore all possible options to better facilitate the transfer of obsolete oil platforms into artificial reef programs. Specific priorities include:
- better understanding of best reefing practices to maximize fish abundance;
- improving consultation and coordination among federal agencies, state agencies and industry;
- establishing more reef planning areas closer to shore; and
- limit the use of explosives during decommissioning.
Stay involved with KeepAmericaFishing for future opportunities to take action on this important issue.