An interesting fight is developing in the Gulf of Mexico: A group that includes some shrimpers, scientists and environmentalists has asked the federal government to scrap the Rigs to Reefs program.
Since 1985, about 450 offshore rigs have been turned into artificial reefs.
The idea had been supported by biologists who contend that the artificial reefs create habitat for all kinds of organisms. The oil industry liked the idea because it cut the costs of disposing of old rigs.
Those seeking an end to the Rigs to Reefs program contend that the artificial reefs just aggregate existing populations, rather than providing habitat that allows populations to increase.
They contend that the science is not conclusive that these artificial reefs help achieve fisheries management goals — and that is the rub.
A lot of other people think the science is conclusive. Some studies indicate the reefs have contributed to significant increases in the populations of fish such as snapper.
Before the U.S. Department of Interior pulls the plug on this program, it should have a public review of the science. From the public’s point of view, a hearing involving marine scientists would be far more helpful than a court case.
• Heber Taylor