Blue Latitudes Foundation is looking to reach out to anglers online and in person to research the feasibility of oil rigs and man-made habitats for marine animals.
Blue Latitudes Foundation is conducting stakeholder surveys through the end of September to gather feedback from recreational anglers about the fishing scene off of Southern California’s oil rigs.
There are 27 offshore oil rigs off Southern California’s coast, and there have been multiple discussions recently about what to do with the platforms, many of which are set to be removed in the next 5 to 10 years.
Thoughts have run towards removing the rigs and restoring the habitat to its original state or utilizing the oil rigs as man-made reefs for California’s natural marine life.
The Blue Latitudes Foundation released information showing over 79 fish species have been identified in the midwaters of offshore platforms, including sculpin, rockfish, sea bass, and sheepshead.
Research has also found that some strawberry anemone have made their home by attaching to the rigs and shell mounds, consisting of fallen rock scallops and mussel shells, have been found at the bottom of the rigs creating a unique habitat that acts as a nursery ground for juvenile fish.
“California’s platforms have been named some of the most productive globally, and so there is a lot of incredible habitats there for fish and invertebrates, and the Blue Latitudes Foundation is exploring the feasibility of this program and working to better understand how these habitats support marine life,” said Jacqueline Rosa, program coordinator for Blue Latitudes.
The Blue Latitudes Foundation is a non-profit founded in 2018 by Emily Hazelwood and Amber Sparks, who met while pursuing their masters at Scripps Institute of Oceanography.
The foundation focuses on projects in areas where industry and environment intersect, like the oil rigs off California. One of their leading projects, the Feasibility of Rigs to Reefs program focuses on repurposing the rigs. As part of this project, the foundation initiated a commercial fisheries analysis in 2021, tracking fishing activity in the surrounding platforms and analyzing how stakeholders interacted with those fishery resources.
The foundation realized they were missing a piece of the puzzle and sought a way to reach recreational anglers to get the full scope.
“We did our analysis of commercial fishing, and it gave us a lot of information, but we realized we were missing an important stakeholder, which was the recreational fishing sector,” said Rosa. “Recreational fishing is more difficult to track…So in order to connect with this stakeholder and how they are connecting with the platform, we needed to do a survey. Something that was a little bit simpler and something that was a little bit more digestible, and we wanted to have an online portion of the survey, as well as an in-person portion of the survey to hopefully connect with as many recreational anglers as possible.”
As part of that outreach Blue Latitudes Foundation, with the support of the Coastal Conservation Association California, is asking recreational anglers and other stakeholders to take part in a simple online survey.
The survey is anonymous and takes about five minutes to complete. Anglers will be asked about their target species when near the platform, species they’ve caught, and their preference for decommissioning oil rigs is.
Whether they prefer a re-utilization stance or want the oil rigs completely removed from the horizon, the project is about education and feasibility for the future.
“This project aims to educate fishers and also give them a portal in which to have their voice be heard in order to preserve these fishery resources,” said Rosa. “So, we really want to be transparent with the data that we are collecting, and we really look forward to sharing that data with the CCA and with our other project partners at the end of the project, and we are thankful for being in the space and being supported by fishers and benefit fishers by preserving fishery habitats.”
The second part of the survey will be in person sometime this fall. The foundation partnered with Newport Beach Whale Watching and will conduct in-person surveys with Davey’s Locker.
The foundation will go out on some of the charter fishing trips, including some Twilight trips, to distribute the survey and connect with anglers out in the field.
“We would like to be out in the field connecting with anglers in their space and distributing the survey on board, and the survey will be the same in person and electronically,” said Rosa.
For more information or to participate in the online survey, see the Blue Latitudes Foundation website at https://www.bluelatitudesfoundation.org/projects.