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

Paul Sammarco psammarco at lumcon.edu
Fri Sep 18 12:23:04 EDT 2009

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.  



Paul W. Sammarco, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Association of Marine Laboratories of the Caribbean (AMLC)


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.
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

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
361-882-1262 fax
qdokken at 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

      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 
     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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