Take It or Leave It

The Current –

The oil platforms off the Santa Barbara coast are a familiar sight to local residents. The structures tower above the ocean surface like industrial factories. But below the water, the rigs are like high-rise apartment buildings, providing homes to a vibrant community of sea life.

Of California’s 23 federal offshore platforms, many are nearing the end of their lives, and regulators need to decide what to do with the underwater superstructures. Some advocate removing the platforms in their entirety, while others propose leaving their support structures in place to continue acting as human-made reefs.

In an effort to inform this discussion, a group of researchers led by scientists at UC Santa Barbara has produced 11 studies in a dedicated issue of the Bulletin of Marine Science outlining the ecology of the state’s oil platforms. They’ve also compiled a searchable database of studies on platform ecology carried out worldwide.

“Platforms are going to be decommissioned and California citizens should make informed decisions about this process,” said Ann Scarborough-Bull, a researcher at UCSB’s Marine Science Institute (MSI), who spearheaded the initiative. She will speak about the topic January 13 at the Offshore Oil Platform Decommissioning Forum, which will take place at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California.

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