Curiously coinciding with Washington’s push to lift offshore oil drilling bans, two new reports were released last week hailing oil rigs as essential fish habitat – specifically for the over-fished rockfish population. Researched by UCSB marine biologist Milton Love and his colleagues, the reports estimated that there are at least 430,000 baby rockfish living in and around the eight oil rigs the divers surveyed – all of them in the Santa Barbara channel. The news comes as part of the ongoing debate regarding the fate of oil rigs once they stop pumping petroleum. As it stands now, the financial burden of removing the massive steel structures falls on the shoulders of the oil industry; the industry, along with other organizations, has been lobbying in recent years to change the rules. Supporters of rig removal, including the S.B.-based Environmental Defense Center, are quick to point out that much of the recently released research was funded by the organization CARE – the California Artificial Reef Enhancement program – which is dedicated to scientific research on unnatural reefs and receives hefty financial support from oil companies.

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