(Santa Barbara, Calif.) While some observers consider offshore oil and gas platforms to be an eyesore on the horizon, new data shows they are performing a critical function for marine life.
For the first time, scientists have documented the importance of oil and gas platforms as critical nursery habitat for some species of rockfishes on the California coast. Two articles documenting the importance of the platforms are published in the current issue of Fisheries Bulletin, with lead authors from the University of California, Santa Barbara. Available on-line at http://fishbull.noaa.gov/, Fisheries Bulletin is a quarterly publication of the U.S. government that is sent out worldwide.
The rockfish species called bocaccio (Sebastes paucipinis), which can live up to 50 years, was, until recently, an economically important rockfish species along the West Coast of North America and was abundant from Oregon to northern Baja California. Overfishing has reduced the stock to less than one-tenth of its former population, according to Milton S. Love, a marine biologist with UCSB's Marine Science Institute (MSI). However, the platforms are helping to restore this species.
"This is the first time that we have solid evidence that platforms can be critical habitat for rebuilding some species of rockfishes," said Love.
Love's article reports that, in 2003, his research team conducted fish surveys around eight oil and gas platforms off Southern California in the Santa Barbara Channel using a manned research submarine. There are 27 oil and gas platforms along the California coast and approximately 6,000 worldwide.
From the 2003 surveys, the research team estimated that a minimum of 430,000
juvenile bocaccio took up residence at the eight structures. The researchers determined that the 430,000 juveniles equal about 20 percent of the average number of juvenile boca
Contact: Milton Love
University of California - Santa Barbara