[Coral-List] Artificial Reefs and Corporate Bodies and ReefRehabilitation

Steve Kolian stevekolian at hotmail.com
Sun Sep 20 16:54:21 EDT 2009

Dear Listers, I thought it would be helpful to add some video data and information to the recent discussion of offshore platforms.  Please view video data on the marine life at offshore platforms in Gulf of Mexico and Pacific,  go to:
Gulf of Mexico Platforms: http://www.ecorigs.org/Schooling%20Fish-1.wmv (1.2 MB)
www.ecorigs.org/Attraction%20vs%20ProductionVideo-1.wmv (1.5MB) 
Pacific Platform Helen: http://www.ecorigs.org/Platform_Ellen.wmv   (9MB)
Invertebrates:  http://www.ecorigs.org/CoralSponge-2.wmv (1.5MB)
To view a map of the existing fixed offshore platforms: http://www.ecorigs.org/Existing%20Platforms.pdf
Discussion of Platforms: http://www.ecorigs.org/MarineLifeonOffshorePlatforms (60MB)
Information on Platform:
The Gulf of Mexico is home to 3,959 offshore oil and gas platforms. The offshore platforms are peppered across 260,000 sq km area in the northwest Gulf of Mexico, an area influenced by major tributaries.  Many platforms create complex reef ecosystems, comprised of Caribbean, temperate and coastal flora and fauna that would otherwise not exist on thousands of square miles of generally featureless and silty continental shelf. Large predator fish, obligatory reef fish and a wide range of invertebrates are abundant at offshore platforms. 
When production from the wells becomes unprofitable, federal regulations (30 CFR 250.112) require that the platforms be removed. One platform produces approximately one acre or more of marine surface area. The platform owners have, to date, removed 1,736 fixed platforms resulting in the destruction of an estimated 2,098 acres of coral reef habitat.  The total volume of the underwater portion of the platforms already removed is 52,398,731m3. Due to the depletion of petroleum fields, by 2020, the Gulf of Mexico will lose the majority of the structures in water depths less than 600 feet.  There is an estimated 4,465 acres of coral reef habitat currently existing in the Gulf of Mexico in the form of oil and gas platforms. The total volume of the underwater portion of the existing platforms is 127,712,369m3. Today’s cost to replace an equivalent number of artificial reefs at $140/m3 is $17.9 billion. For more info go to: http://www.ecorigs.org/Platform%20Removal%20Brief.pdf 
Offshore platform removal operations typically involves the use of explosives to sever structure-associated components requiring removal (wellheads, piles, pipe lines, etc.) 16 feet below the seafloor.  Millions of invertebrates perish when a structure is removed. Invertebrates such as colonies of coral, octocoral, mollusks, red and green algae macroalgae, hydroids, colonial anemones, sponge and bryozoans. Both large and small cryptic consumers such as amphipods, pycnogonids, ophiuroids, and polychaetes are found on platforms in significant densities ranging from 100,464 per square meter near the surface to 23,541 per square meter near the bottom (Gallaway and Lebel 1981; Carney 2005). 
Estimated mortality of fish at a given platform removal within depths from 40 - 100 feet ranged from approximately 2,000 - 5,000 for fish measuring greater than four inches (Gitshlag 2001). The most severely impacted fish species at explosive structure removals in order of abundance were Atlantic spadefish (Chaetodipterus faber), blue runner (Caranx crysos), red snapper (Lutjanus campechanus), and sheepshead (Archosargus probatocephalus). These four species accounted for 86% of estimated mortality. Gitshlag (2003) estimated the mortality of red snapper due to under-water explosives averaged 515 per platform. 
Offshore platforms are remarkable structures: they are enormous; they will last a hundred years or more if they are properly maintained and do not encounter a catastrophic weather event. They occupy the entire water column, therefore shallow water obligatory reef fish and deep water demersal and pelagic fish are found at the same place. The fish biomass at offshore platforms is ten times greater, per unit area, than the fish biomass at coral reefs in marine sanctuaries (Flower Gardens) and platforms toppled as artificial reefs (Wilson et. al 2003). The platforms are durable enough to be modified to increase the amount of surface area and recruitment habitat which could increase resident populations significantly. 
The retired offshore platforms can be refitted for alternate uses such as: 1. Production of renewable energy derived from wind, current, wave and bio-fuels; 2. Hydrogen production, (i.e. extraction of hydrogen from seawater via electrolysis); 3. Culture of coral and sponges, oyster depuration, ornamental and food fish, etc.); 4. Recreational fishing and diving parks; 5. Culture of pharmaceutically valuable organisms; 6. Marine Sanctuaries; 7. Sequestration of greenhouse gases.  

Best Regards, Steve Kolian 225-910-0304 cell

 > From: psammarco at lumcon.edu
> To: qdokken at gulfmex.org; eshinn at marine.usf.edu; coral-list at coral.aoml..noaa.gov
> Date: Fri, 18 Sep 2009 11:23:04 -0500
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Artificial Reefs and Corporate Bodies and ReefRehabilitation
> Dear Gene and Quentin,
> I've read your notes. You are pretty much spot-on. The platform structures
> are actually contributing a great deal to the northern Gulf of Mexico in
> terms of providing new habitat for Caribbean and Gulf benthic, demersal, and
> even pelagic species. Also, Quentin, you are correct in saying that the
> scientists need to work with industry to achieve sustainable resource usage
> and development there. And it doesn't stop there. The liaison needs to be
> with government too - Congress and the federal regulating agencies. It's a
> matter of going in with a win-win attitude. Right now, just about all the
> community development that has been stimulated by the deployment of these
> structures is being destroyed via their decommissioning, including mortality
> of species protected by federal and international law. But federal law
> currently mandates their removal (with a few caveats). 
> Also - Quentin - you raise an excellent point. Some question whether these
> structures should be left in place, citing data that suggest that the
> structures are "attracting" not "producing" commercial or recreational fish
> species populations. Others say they are producing fish. The truth is that
> both groups are right. The structures are producing demersal and
> reef-associated fish that recruit as larvae from the water column and take
> up residence in this new habitat to feed and reproduce. They also "attract"
> in pelagic species to either feed on members of the community there or to
> use the structure as refuge and feed in the water column around the
> structure. These are all natural ecological processes that occur on reefs..
> So the question arises - Should we keep them or decommission them? There is
> an easy solution, and you hit upon it in your comments. Regulate the use of
> these structures in the same way that we regulate the usage of natural reef
> systems - like the Great Barrier Reef, or the Florida Keys. Some structures
> could be for diving, some for fishing, some will be for research, some will
> be for everything, some will be prohibited for all visitation (reserves),
> some will be take areas, some will be no-take areas, etc. It is not
> necessary to throw out the baby with the bath water. 
> By the way, they are not all well-developed. Some are pretty devoid of
> marine community development after cessation of production, and those
> probably should be removed or at least moved to a Rigs-to-Reefs area. 
> Did the structures pollute in their day? Probably. Are they polluting now?
> No - at least not in the US. They're incredibly heavily regulated, and MMS
> and other authorities have unannounced spot checks on them frequently, with
> heavy penalties associated with infractions of regulations. The risk and
> liability is too high for the parent companies. Will they pollute later?
> No. Production will have ceased, and the wells will be plugged, which is
> required anyway. 
> Gene - you're right. These things were not deployed for the purpose of
> becoming artificial reefs. They have become so by default. But now that we
> have them, and since they are actually making some level of positive
> contribution to the fauna and flora of the northern Gulf of Mexico, it seems
> wise to keep the structures - but make sure they're clean and that their use
> is regulated, so that any positive effect they have on the northern Gulf is
> not negated by potential over-fishing. Like you, I've been staring the
> critters that live on these things in the face for over a decade, and that's
> the conclusion I've come to. 
> I have a number of publications out on this, and will also be publishing
> some large reports on the subject soon. 
> Cheers,
> Paul
> Paul W. Sammarco, Ph.D.
> Executive Director
> Association of Marine Laboratories of the Caribbean (AMLC)
> and
> Professor
> Louisiana Universities Marine Consortium (LUMCON)
> 8124 Hwy. 56
> Chauvin, LA 70344
> Tel: 1-985-876-2489
> FAX: 1-985-851-2874
> Email: psammarco at lumcon.edu
> Website: www.lumcon.edu
> -----Original Message-----
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Dokken, Dr..
> Quenton
> Sent: Friday, September 18, 2009 9:27 AM
> To: 'Eugene Shinn'; coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Subject: Re: [Coral-List] Artificial Reefs and Corporate Bodies and
> ReefRehabilitation
> Good Morning Gene and Coral-list,
> Gene's comments are right on. The next step for the artificial reef
> programs is to factor their impact, positive and negative, into fishery
> management and MPA strategies. And, don't forget that they contribute to
> the overall ecology of the region - not to just those species of interest to
> fishers. How about 1 - 10 ha blocks where durable artificial reef materials
> are concentrated and made off limits to all fishing?
> Regarding the anti-capitalistic view it is time to wake up. Academic
> science and government management of resources has not stopped the decline
> in habitat quality and quantity or living resources. Perhaps science and
> government management has slowed down the decline, but it certainly has not
> stopped it much less reversed it. Industry from small to big must be
> brought into the effort if we are in fact going to achieve sustainability of
> natural resources and ecosystem functioning. Shutting industry out on
> "holier than thou" reasoning is a strategy for continued failure in resource
> management. Industry can bring tremendous resources to the effort,
> intellectual and financial. And, close collaboration creates the
> opportunity to have a positive effect on the thinking of industry's leaders.
> Make good use of the opportunity.
> Quenton Dokken, Ph.D.
> Executive Director
> Gulf of Mexico Foundation, Inc.
> PMB 51 5403 Everhart Rd.
> Corpus Christi, TX 78413
> 361-882-3939
> 361-882-1262 fax
> 800-884-4175
> qdokken at gulfmex.org
> www.gulfmex.org
> -----Original Message-----
> From: coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> [mailto:coral-list-bounces at coral.aoml.noaa.gov] On Behalf Of Eugene Shinn
> Sent: Thursday, September 17, 2009 2:47 PM
> To: coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
> Subject: [Coral-List] Artificial Reefs and Corporate Bodies and
> ReefRehabilitation
> Bart's question stimulated a lot of anti capitalistic rhetoric. 
> So big business should not be involved with artificial reefs? Do you 
> suppose Panasonic plans to make artificial reefs from discarded TV 
> sets? Seriously, some big-business-inspired super-effective long- 
> lasting artificial reefs already exist. Some were planted off Ft. 
> Lauderdale, Florida more than 25 years ago. Bob Wicklund and I 
> described them in a paper in 1989, (Shinn, E.A., Wicklund, R., 1989 
> Observations on deep water artificial fishing reefs from Research 
> Submersible, Bull Mar Sci. V, 44 (2) p. 1041-1050.). What were they? 
> Obsolete oil rigs brought at great expense all the way from the Gulf 
> of Mexico by Tenneco Oil Company. For some reason they did not 
> generate a lot of publicity but then the coral-list did not exist 
> yet. Must say we observed plenty of divers and fish on them when we 
> conducted our study. As near as we could tell the fish and encrusting 
> organisms did not seem to realize they were not true coral reefs.
> No, they were not intended to stimulate coral growth but the coral 
> species that incrusted them and the fish they harbored seemed happy. 
> Ok somebody say it just made it easier for divers to spear fish. I 
> won't deny that. One, however, was placed at a depth too deep for 
> divers.
> Now there are about 4,000 of them in the northern Gulf of Mexico 
> in various depths of water and they are loaded with fish from the 
> surface to the bottom. They did not cost the tax payers anything. 
> They were not put there to mimic coral reefs and reefs do not grow 
> over most of that area anyway. Nevertheless, they host more reef fish 
> per unit area than any true coral reef I have ever seen. It has even 
> been proposed that they be incorporated as marine sanctuaries 
> because in addition to being fish havens they also preserve shrimp 
> and by catch. Shrimper's don't go there anymore because of the rigs 
> and pipelines. Gene
> -- 
> No Rocks, No Water, No Ecosystem (EAS)
> ------------------------------------ -----------------------------------
> E. A. Shinn, Courtesy Professor
> University of South Florida
> Marine Science Center (room 204)
> 140 Seventh Avenue South
> St. Petersburg, FL 33701
> <eshinn at marine.usf.edu>
> Tel 727 553-1158---------------------------------- 
> -----------------------------------
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