(Santa Barbara, Calif.) A treasure trove of biological material, in the array of marine organisms -- from starfish to mussels to sponges -- attached to oil platforms or living around them, will be studied intensively in a search for potential medicines and products, as a result of a cooperative agreement and grant from the U. S. Department of Interior, to be signed here September 27, as part of President Clintons oceans initiative. The potential medicines include anti-cancer and anti-inflammation agents.
Only two universities are receiving these awards, the University of California, Santa Barbara and Louisiana State University, since these institutions are national leaders in this type of research. Each school will receive $500,000, to be matched by non-federal funds.
According to the researchers, many platform-dwelling species have compounds that could be used in medicine, industry and food, by applying biotechnology.
In waters off the coast of California, platforms provide artificial habitat for over 50 species of algae and invertebrates, and some of these grow at very fast rates. For example, mussels and goose barnacles on oil platforms in the region grow at rates equal to or higher than the highest reported anywhere else in the world.
Of the 27 oil platforms off the coast of California, all are producing oil. This study will analyze marine life around eight platforms in the Santa Barbara channel, located off-shore from Carpinteria to Point Conception.
An added plus to this research is that the harvesting of these
organisms would not disturb naturally-occurring reef systems; in fact,
organisms could be taken as the platforms are cleaned. Some species are
already harvested for food. "For example, in the Southern California
Bight, mussels for human consumption are harvested on a sustained basis
offshore platforms, suggesting that platform species with desired
natural products also
could be cultured with
Contact: Gail Brown
University of California - Santa Barbara