Study confirms viability of old offshore platforms as fish habitats

Exmouth King Reef Golden Trevally and juvenile Red Emperor (Photo: Recfishwest)

The Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, a partnership between the Australian government and local fishing and aquaculture stakeholders, has launched a project that seeks to determine the advantages and disadvantages of allowing old oil and gas infrastructures in the waters off Karratha in Western Australia to be used as habitats for native marine species.

When the infrastructure was installed near Thevenard Island in the 1990s, the regulations stated that the whole lot had to be removed once the project finished.

However, recent research has now established that the ecosystems formed around the five structures hold substantial ecological, social, and economic value. This has been determined considering the effect the structures are having on both commercial and recreational fishing, with associated tourism potential.

Andrew Rowland, chief executive of local not-for-profit recreational fishing organisation Recfishwest, says recreational fishers are aware of the benefits of built marine structures. Even though they are not currently allowed to fish in the exclusion zones around oil and gas platforms, he says the sector recognises the value of the marine life that has grown on, around, and near these structures.

The research is also addressing possible concerns associated with leaving the structures in place, such as the potential of chemical leaching into the environment and the long-term legal liability and responsibility for clean-up, if issues are identified 50 or 100 years from now.

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