The United States Senate is likely to pass what has been called by some the most significant sportsmen legislation in a generation. The Sportsmen’s Act (S. 3525) includes a directive to Departments of Interior and Commerce along with other federal and state agencies to report to Congress on the removing of oil rigs no longer in use but where coral and fish populations have taken over the structure. The version that is set to pass the Senate does not stop the removal process, which is already destroying coral and fish, while Congress examines this issue.
It’s true we need some better information on how rigs become artificial reefs and which are chosen and how many we need for important fish habitat, but we already know that rigs provide important habitat for fish and sensitive coral populations. That fact will not change with more studies. Government agencies have recently offered some basic information on where the rigs are and which ones become reefs so it’s clear the agencies are starting to get organized, but in the meantime, let’s stop destroying these good fishing spots and coral ecosystems. These decommissioned rigs are important to anglers in the Gulf of Mexico and it is possible that their existence is not only beneficial to fish populations, but that their removal may cause real harm.
The federal government needs to stop removing rigs while we develop the process. We will continue to work with the administration, other fishermen and the oil industry to find a way that works.