(c) Jim Patterson Photography, https://jimpattersonphotography.com/
By: Rod Fujita & Kendra Karr
Fisheries management is principally focused on managing fishing pressure, with the goal of keeping individual fish stocks healthy enough to produce good yields. But fisheries also affect the basic processes that keep ocean ecosystems healthy. This is why it is important to understand how many fish need to be in the system to maintain the many important services that an ocean ecosystem can produce — including the maintenance of biodiversity, tourism value, and fisheries — and to manage fisheries so that fish populations remain at about that level.
The evidence that fish are important regulators of ecosystem processes is particularly strong in coral reefs. The abundance and variety of fish is one of the most striking aspects of a healthy coral reef. Some species transport energy and nutrients between seagrass meadows and the reefs. Grazing fish species on a healthy coral reef keep seaweeds that would otherwise over-grow the reef in check. Predators regulate populations of prey species, responding to natural variability by adjusting their feeding rates and numbers. On a healthy reef, many different species occupy each of these niches, and each does their job in a slightly different way. This enables the reef to resist threats and other changes (like hurricanes) and to recover from very storms or human impacts, within limits of course. Read More
A large group of chub (Kyphosus sp.) school under the platform. Photo: Schmahl/FGBNMS (From NOAA)
As I’ve written before, the Rigs to Reefs permitting process of the federal and state agencies in the Gulf of Mexico is a good example of “finding ways that work.” This cooperative process enables the owners of oil and gas platforms to use those structures to support artificial reefs. In fact, this means the rigs continue serving as artificial reefs because they have already attracted fish, coral, and other marine life as the rigs produced oil or gas.
Over the past few years, the issue of rig removal has become a heated topic among anglers as the federal government undertook more aggressive measures to remove retired rigs. The officials responsible for safe retirement of end-of-service rigs and the anglers and divers who benefit from the marine life around those rigs have been at odds over the best ways to maintain reef habitats while also providing for other uses of the Gulf. That tension was reduced this week when the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, a division of the Department of Interior, issued a new policy addressing several sticking points that arose in recent years. Most of the log jam has been caused by basic questions of process: how many rigs would remain as reef habitat, where would they be placed, and how would they be secured? Read More