[Coral-List] Artificial reefs

Gene Shinn eshinn at usgs.gov
Fri Mar 12 15:56:39 EST 2004

"Piscicentric" I like it Mike! I had this discussion with Jacques 
Cousteau and his son Philippe on a television panel show in Houston, 
Texas, over 30 years ago. I was representing Shell and the Texas 
Artificial Reef Program that was using old Liberty ships and expired 
oil rigs. Philippe argued vehemently that all artificial structures 
only served the fishermen, not the fish. He was very Piscicentric! 
The irony I see in all this haggling is that nothing has changed in 
over 30 years. Do structures simply attract and concentrate existing 
life or do they cause the proliferation of new life? That was the 
question then and it is the central question now. One can make good 
arguments on either side depending on how piscicentric or 
coralicentric one may be. At the time I saw it all as mainly 
sociopolitical gesturing. If you hated big oil, then oil rigs could 
do no good. If you didn't hate them, then rigs were good for the 
environment, and especially fishermen. Back then I would point to the 
large lobsters living on cross members 100 ft above the bottom and 
argue they must have arrived to the northern Gulf of Mexico as larvae 
rather than walk across 50 miles of mud. It seemed unlikely the 
larvae would have developed into full grown lobsters had the rigs not 
been there. On the other hand, there were giant groupers and large 
pelagics that would appear soon after a rig was installed. Somewhere 
in the middle there was the multitude of tropical fish. There were 
also corals but we did not discuss corals back then because they were 
only an issue to the rig engineers who worried they would obstruct 
hydrodynamic flow and integrity of the structures. Now that there are 
known to be at least 7 coral species living on rigs, it's clear they 
would not be living there had the larvae not found the rigs. As the 
price of gas rises, expect a concurrent rise in piscicentricism.  Gene

No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
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E. A. Shinn
email  eshinn at usgs.gov
USGS Center for Coastal Geology     |
600 4th St. South                   | voice  (727) 803-8747 x3030
St.Petersburg, FL  33701            | fax    (727) 803-2032
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