There is a huge debate going on in Santa Barbara, California about the relationship between nature and human infrastructure off their coast. You may wonder what the relevance of this is for us on the Garden Route of sunny SA. Well…their debate is about active oil rigs in sight of their beautiful beaches and the danger of pollution that they pose, as well as detracting from the pristine beauty of their coast line. We don’t have an active rig in the bay at Mossel Bay but we do have a decommissioned rig parked off waiting for the powers that be to decide its fate, and it’s possible that we will have active rigs further out to sea in the future.
Our rig is controversial too, some people are offended by its presence, objecting to it as visual and physical pollution in our bay, some people like it because it’s lit up at night and looks pretty, others just accept that it’s there. Whatever your take, here is another perspective. In California research biologist Milton Love has taken a small submarine out to their rigs and looked at the sea life that has been attracted to the huge pylons that reach down to the sea bed and has discovered that they are alive with corals, seaweeds, starfish, mussels, crabs and myriads of fish and other creatures with the populations changing at different depths. Like huge ‘marine skyscrapers’, some of the rigs have become important breeding grounds for vulnerable fish. This discovery has led to a law being passed in California that allows oil companies to leave the underwater structure of decommissioned rigs in place with certain provisos to make them safe for shipping. The accompanying photo shows the vibrant life on one of their rig’s pylons.
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if Oceans Research could take their ROV out to our rig and photograph the life on the pylons so that we could see whether we have a fully functioning reef out there too? What do you think about our oil rig?