Gulf reef program angers mariners

March 20
March 20, 2007
Vergie Petersen
March 23, 2007
March 20
March 20, 2007
Vergie Petersen
March 23, 2007

Local fishermen and shrimpers angrily voiced concerns that they’ve been shut out of the state’s “rigs to reef” program meetings because of late notification.

Also a concern for mariners is the growing number of reefs in the Gulf, which they say endanger their livelihood.


A meeting held last Tuesday in Galliano sought input from local fishermen on the program.


In 1986, the state adopted a “rigs to reef” program allowing decommissioned drilling rigs that were no longer in operation to either be removed from the Gulf of Mexico, or, if they met certain criteria, to be disassembled and left in place to create artificial reefs for marine life to grow. According to the regulations, structures in the Gulf must be removed one year after decommissioning if they do not meet criteria for the reef program.

According to T.J. Broussard of the Minerals Management Service (MMS), some 1,452 structures were removed from the Gulf of Mexico over the last 10 years, while 1,427 structures were put in place.


“It’s just about even. As one comes out, another goes in,” he said.


The program originally called for nine areas to be designated as sites to locate decommissioned structures as artificial reefs. However as the program has grown and more abandoned structures become eligible for the reef program, another 13 areas in the Gulf were designated as “special artificial reef sites” or SARS.

These additional areas were created and are maintained by the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF).

Fishermen and shrimpers complained loudly that any increased creation of reefs in the Gulf will only stymie their ability to make a living by placing more hazards in the water and on water bottoms.

“These reefs are taking away our living,” said one fisherman.

Program officials attending the meeting said that only 15 percent of the applicants for the SARS program are granted the right to create a reef outside of a designated zone. Companies with eligible structures that are approved for the process must pay 50 percent of the cost to create the reef.

The local mariners in attendance complained that they receive little or no notification of meetings to discuss these issues important to their livelihood.

Local shrimper Scott St. Pierre said he could sum up the fishing community’s feeling toward more reefs in the Gulf in one sentence. “We don’t like the ones that are there and we don’t want any new ones,” he said.

Program officials pledged to work with and communicate closer with shrimpers in the future so their concerns would be addressed.