Coalition Asks Feds for Moratorium on Removal of Gulf Rigs

A coalition of leading organizations in the recreational-fishing community has asked the U.S. Department of the Interior for a moratorium on its ongoing actions that are removing nonproducing oil rigs from the Gulf of Mexico.

A school of lookdowns call Gulf oil rig home

A school of lookdowns call Gulf oil rig home

Gulf oil rigs support thriving ecoysystems associated with the living coral reefs that grow over them.Jesse Cancelmo

A coalition of marine-conservation, tackle and boating-industry groups is calling for a halt to the federal government’s imminent plan to destroy more than 650 nonproducing oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico resulting in irreparable damage to living coral ecosystems and marine fish populations they support.

Comprising the coalition are most of the largest, most prominent organizations associated with marine conservation and recreational fishing: Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen's Foundation, American Sportfishing Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Center for Coastal Conservation, The Billfish Foundation and the International Game Fish Association.

In their signed letter to U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) Secretary Ken Salazar, the coalition writes: “Our groups respectfully request a two-year moratorium on the Idle Iron guidance until a stakeholder process can be developed to both determine the best methods to properly dismantle platforms that are not serving as marine habitat and to protect those structures that are shown to harbor thriving marine ecosystems.” The groups further offer their “combined expertise and stand ready to be resources” for Interior in an effort to develop “more thoughtful methods to achieve our shared goals of protecting the marine environment while conserving these valuable artificial reefs."

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council is working to list these rigs as Essential Fish Habitat.

In a news release, the CCA says it was a "knee-jerk response to the 2010 Gulf oil spill" that prompted DOI in 2010 to issue its "Idle Iron" directive, calling for the removal of all nonproducing rigs and platforms within five years, and that it did so with little regard for the profound negative implications for marine fisheries and local coastal communities/businesses that rely on these structures.

“The bottom line is that irreparable damage is being done now,” says Pat Murray, CCA president. “Once those structures are removed, it is too late for the Department of the Interior to determine it made a horrible mistake.”