Rigs to Reefs Program

John McManus jmcmanus at rsmas.miami.edu
Mon Oct 30 21:16:39 EST 2000

Now that we know that 60% of the world's fisheries are overfished (at or
beyond MSY, which most modern fisheries scientists consider to be
overfished), a major consideration in evaluating the wisdom of putting in
artificial reefs is the contribution of the structures to enhancing
overfishing. If you can find a place that is not fished (good luck!), this
is not a problem. In a special edition of the Bullletin of Marine Science
several years ago, Jeff Polovina rightfully pointed out that most
artificial reefs are put in after a fishing ground has been overfished -
i.e. after the original stock biomass has already been reduced by on the
order of 50%. This casts doubt on the need to "provide more habitat
space". Many artificial reefs acquire large fish, often 2 to 15 years old,
within a few months of placement, usually from natural habitats. Thus, it
is crucial to determine whether or not stocks to be fished from the
structures are already overfished before the structures make the fish more
accessible to fishers. This is by no means a blanket condemnation of
artificial reefs, but more a plea to be certain the structures are indeed
assets rather than detriments to proper fisheries management.

A positive side of the structures is that they can sometimes be used to
limit trawling, especially illegal trawling, and thus can have a positive
effect on fisheries management. This has reportedly been the case in the
Gulf of Thailand and along the coast of Cebu, Philippines.

Of course there have also been cases of people trying to replace natural
reefs that have died due to chronic stresses, without first alleviating
those stresses. The same stresses then often plague ecological communities
on the structures.  And, there is often a need to carefully evaluate the
cost of putting in the structure (boat time, labor costs, etc.) against the
alternative of investing in improved coastal management. In some cases, the
funds could not be so diverted, and thus the problem is moot. However, with
government funding, this is sometimes a concern.

Artificial reefs are management tools, and, like many management tools, must
be carefully applied based on thorough before and after investigations.

For more on this, see :

McManus, J.W. 1995. Future prospects for artificial reefs in the
Philippines. In: J.L. Munro and M.C. Balgos (eds.) Artificial Reefs in the
Philippines. ICLARM Conf. Proc. 49.



John W. McManus, PhD
Director, National Center for Caribbean Coral Reef Research (NCORE)
Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences (RSMAS)
University of Miami, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway
Miami, Florida 33149.
jmcmanus at rsmas.miami.edu
Tel. (305) 361-4609
Fax (305) 361-4600

 -----Original Message-----
From: 	owner-coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
[mailto:owner-coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov]  On Behalf Of
reskudiver at aol.com
Sent:	Tuesday, October 24, 2000 12:12 AM
To:	coral-list at coral.aoml.noaa.gov
Subject:	Rigs to Reefs Program

    My name is Drew Morris and I am currently a law student at the Penn
University, Dickinson School of Law. I am also an associate editor of the
Dickinson Journal of Environmental Law and Policy.  I am doing research on
rigs to reef programs, specifically the legislation S.B. 241 in California -
the leaving of Oil rigs in the water as a means of preserving the artificial

    I am beginning to gain a true understanding of the issues presented her.
Although I am ignorant to most of the Biology involved, I have read (and
attempted to understand) numerous reports of the Gulf rigs to reef programs
and the positive environmental and ecological effects that the program is
having.  I understand that the Pacific Ocean is a whole "beast" in and of
own, and very little study has been done on this topic in that geographic
area.  I have some information on some preliminary studies regarding this
subject, and as it looks now, both the rainforest analogy as well as the
minimal scientific data avaliable makes it look like a positive
plan.  What do all of you think? I need some help.

    I have dug up the necessary federal and state statutes regarding the
legal ability to do this kind of program.  It looks like it can fly from
standpoint.  I can not, however, find any case law regarding any kind of
liability that can be imposed here, heck I can't even figure out what kind
legal problems can arise because the State is suggesting a "no-take" area
the fishes with the exception of a special scientific research permit.

    As an active member of R.E.E.F., an avid scuba diver, and a "want-to-be"
marine biologist, I am fascinated by all sides of this issue and want to
present all sides of the issue fairly.  I hope that you can help me.  Thank
you very much.


                Drew A. Morris
                reskudiver at aol.com
                527 South Pitt Street Apt. 16
                Carlisle, PA 17013

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