Fish densities associated with structural elements of oil and gas platforms in southern California

Author: Meyer-Gutbrod, Erin L.; Kui, Li; Nishimoto, Mary M.; Love, Milton S.; Schroeder, Donna M.; Miller, Robert J.

Description: There are thousands of offshore oil and gas platforms worldwide that will eventually become obsolete, and one popular decommissioning alternative is the “rigs to reefs” conversion that designates all or a portion of the underwater infrastructure as an artificial reef, thereby reducing the burden of infrastructure removal. The unique architecture of each platform may influence the size and structure of the associated fish assemblage if different structural elements form distinct habitats for fishes. Using scuba survey data from 11 southern California platforms from 1995 to 2000, we examined fish assemblages associated with structural elements of the structure, including the major horizontal crossbeams outside of the jacket, vertical jacket legs, and horizontal crossbeams that span the jacket interior. Patterns of habitat association were examined among three depth zones: shallow (<16.8 m), midwater (16.8–26 m), and deep (>26 m); and between two life stages: young-of-the-year and non-young-of-the-year. Fish densities tended to be greatest along horizontal beams spanning the jacket interior, relative to either horizontal or vertical beams along the jacket exterior, indicating that the position of the habitat within the overall structure is an important characteristic affecting fish habitat use. Fish densities were also higher in transects centered directly over a vertical or horizontal beam relative to transects that did not contain a structural element. These results contribute to the understanding of fish habitat use on existing artificial reefs, and can inform platform decommissioning decisions as well as the design of new offshore structures intended to increase fish production.

Subject headings: Offshore drilling; Artificial reef; Fish assemblages; Fish densities; Offshore oil and gas platforms; Fish habitat; Decommissioning

Publication year: 2019

Journal or book title: Bulletin of Marine Science

Volume: 95

Issue: 4

Pages: 639-656

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Serial number: 3955