The effects of oil platform decommissioning on fish communities

June 02, 2020

UC Santa Barbara marine biologists forecast the effects of oil platform decommissioning on fish communities

View the complete news release at: UCSB Current

(Santa Barbara, Calif.) — Biologists and fishermen alike know that offshore oil platforms function as de facto habitats for fish. The structures climb hundreds of feet into the water column, creating a prefab reef out in open water. But many of these platforms will soon be decommissioned, and government agencies are considering the potential ecological effects in deciding how this will be done.

UC Santa Barbara postdoctoral scholar Erin Meyer-Gutbrod and her colleagues have focused their research on predicting how different decommissioning scenarios will affect the productivity of the surrounding waters. They found that completely removing a platform could reduce fish biomass at the sites by 95% on average. Meanwhile, removing just the top of the rig could keep losses to around 10%. Their forecast appears in the journal Ecological Applications.

“The key result of the paper is that the biomass and production on the platforms are much higher than they would be if the structure were removed and the area reverted to soft bottom,” Meyer-Gutbrod said.

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