This is something I always end up having to cover again. And Again. And again. And again. To keep me from having to do this again, and again, and again, please turn off your TV. Please stop watching Fox News, CNN, MSNBC or any other major media outlet. They are the devil. All of them! It’s the 21st century, get your own information first hand from people like myself, especially when it comes to information regarding our fisheries. There’s a free market out there! So why listen to some schmuck from Washington, D.C. talk about our own natural resources here in Louisiana’s wetlands? Hear it from someone that lives here and has a vested interest!
On charter trips and when talking to people outside of the “Louisiana” community ( Face it, there’s a LOT of people that live in Louisiana who don’t carry Louisiana values and traditions, to include those of our outdoors. They’d much rather watch American Idol and eat at Texas Roadhouse. With that said, Captain Devin will happily whip up some fried speckled trout for anyone that wishes to try! ) I find myself having to explain how good gas and oil platforms are for marine life and our environment. People see a gas rig and recoil as if it may explode at any moment. Surely, if CNN said so it must be true.
Before I get into why rigs are so important to our marine ecology, I will also mention that we live in a recession and at the time of this writing, we are looking at $4 gasoline. There is not a worse time to start hewing at our oil and gas industry. It will destroy families and crush businesses, especially those in Louisiana. It’s just food for thought.
So, moving on. These gas and oil rigs are found all over the marsh, bays and open blue water of Louisiana. Our natural resources are that vast! What makes the rigs and platforms so important? We’ll start off with the rigs that are located in inshore waters.
Water depth in the intracoastal water rarely exceeds 30 ft. On average, you’re looking at a depth of just a few feet to about 15 feet. It varies, but in a nutshell it is shallow when you are inside the marsh. The bottom of the water also varies, but across the board you will find a very thick “marsh mud” or an organic detritus that can be described as “coffee grounds”. When gas companies build a gas platform, they reinforce this otherwise soft bottom with a pad of oyster shells. Oyster shells are good because they’re strong and indigenous to those waters. But they are also good for something else…
Oyster reefs occur naturally and food chains stack on top of them. The oysters create cover for baitfish like shrimp, cocahoes and mullet. They also create food as algae and grass grows in and around oyster beds. The baitfish arrive and right behind them are the trout and redfish. Other species are involved in this, too. The shellpads around gas rigs are essentially man made oyster beds that not only attract marine life, but also produce it! See how important they are? What if you took that away and Mr. Trout had nowhere to eat?
Bay snapper (also known as sheephead) love to eat barnacles. There are few places where barnacles grow on more than pilings in and around gas platforms. If it weren’t for these rigs and jetties, bay snapper would have few places to eat. Because there are so many places that are ideal to their diet, bay snapper are thriving. It’s the same situation for other species! Rigs are good!
In the Gulf of Mexico, oil rigs play an ever more critical role in the marine ecosystem. They give shelter to birds weathering a storm and they add surface for reefs to grow on. Before the advent of oil rigs, the Gulf of Mexico was a featureless, flat bottom without many places for fish to feed, hide or spawn. But all that has changed. These rigs don’t concentrate marine life so much as they PRODUCE marine life. Nowhere in the Gulf does it naturally occur that a reef would rise through the entire water column, accommodating every type of marine life that exists in that ecosystem. Where else can coral grow?
These structures, especially the old ones, have become a critical part to the survival of our fisheries. With them, our fisheries abound. Without them, they will most certainly die off to smaller numbers. It’s safe to say that is not something we want. Cutting down a rig is like cutting down a tree.
The biggest problem we are dealing with now is the Magnuson-Stevens Act (another bloated, useless bill passed by the government to shove bureaucracy down our throats) not identifying these platforms as EFH, or Essential Fish Habitat. It’s a huge blunder on their part. On April 16th, there will be a meeting held by the Gulf Fishery Management Council to address this problem.
You can go to their homepage or click here to go directly to their contact information and submit your concerns. If you are in Louisiana, you have skin in the game, as our natural resources will be threatened if these rigs are not classified as EFH. Even if you are not from Louisiana, then by remaining complacent, you will be allowing someone with outside interests to set the precedent on what happens with your state’s natural resources.