Much to the displeasure of oil companies and recreational
fishing advocates, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced
last week that the 13 oil platforms in Southern California
waters – including nine in the Santa Barbara Channel – are not
essential fish habitat. Under current law, the multimillion-dollar
burden of removing the massive rigs and restoring the ocean floor
to its natural state falls on the oil companies once their leases
expire. But oil companies contend the towering underwater pillars
supporting the rigs have become “artificial” habitat for thousands
of fish – including the threatened rockfish – and therefore should
be capped off and left behind once the rig is abandoned. Despite
strong environmental opposition, the Fisheries Service has not
ruled out the “rigs to reef” proposal.


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