Graves And Veasey Introduce Bipartisan Legislation To Preserve Critical Marine Habitat In Gulf Of Mexico

Washington, DC – U.S. Representatives Garret Graves (Louisiana) and Marc Veasey (Texas) introduced legislation to preserve marine ecosystems and protect fishing access for anglers in the Gulf of Mexico by improving longstanding artificial reefing programs.

Offshore energy infrastructure in the Gulf of Mexico serves as prominent, biodiverse habitats for fish, corals, and crustacea to aggregate. Since 2000, over 60% of the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico have been removed – eliminating critical reef habitat and decreasing access for recreational and commercial fishing.

“Everyone who goes fishing off the coast of Louisiana knows that the best catches come when you’re close to a rig,” Rep. Graves said. “Casting aside our favorite fishing spots by thoughtlessly removing energy infrastructure threatens the health of our offshore ecosystems and reduces opportunities for folks to fish in Sportsman’s Paradise. Our bill will encourage participation in the Rigs-to-Reefs program and highlights what can be accomplished when a diverse group of stakeholders work together to accomplish shared goals.”

“Today, I’m proud to co-lead the Marine Fisheries Habitat Protection Act with my colleague Congressman Graves of Louisiana,” said Rep. Veasey. “Our legislation will help create a pathway for more Rigs-to-Reefs conversions and bolster the overall program that is repurposing out-of-service offshore oil and natural gas production platforms into thriving areas for aquatic wildlife.”

“Where they exist, offshore oil and gas platforms are the catalyst for teeming reef fish communities and offer recreational anglers consistent, reliable fishing destinations,” said Chris Horton, Senior Director of Fisheries Policy for the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF). “While some claim they are simply fish attractors and not producers, the value they provide for enhancing marine productivity and biodiversity is clear in the scientific literature. Unfortunately, we’re losing them at an alarming rate. We very much appreciate Congressman Graves and Congressman Veasey for their leadership on this important legislation.”

“As anyone who has fished offshore in the Gulf of Mexico knows, oil and gas platforms are thriving marine ecosystems,” said Mike Leonard, vice president of Government Affairs at the American Sportfishing Association. “These are fishing meccas that are tremendously important to the sportfishing industry and coastal communities. We applaud Reps. Graves and Veasey for introducing the Marine Fisheries Habitat Protection Act, which will help facilitate more of these artificials reefs remaining in the water to support the marine ecosystem.”

“We are grateful to Congressman Graves and Congressman Veasey for continuing to champion an issue that is of great importance to recreational anglers,” said Pat Murray, President and CEO of Coastal Conservation Association. “There is an immediate need to do everything we can to keep these structures in the marine environment. We appreciate this reasoned process to preserve them as the basis of thriving marine ecosystems all over the Gulf of Mexico.”

“CSP commends Congressmen Graves and Veasey for their leadership to protect fisheries habitat,” said Jeff Angers, President of the Center for Sportfishing Policy (CSP). “These offshore energy structures attract huge amounts of fish and marine life. They also provide some of the most reliable access to productive fishing for anglers who visit the Gulf of Mexico. Conserving this habitat is crucial for fish and anglers alike, and CSP is appreciative of this effort.”

“Over time, offshore oil and gas rigs accumulate a wealth of biomass, which essentially turns them into important ecosystem components for the Gulf of Mexico,” said International Game Fish Association (IGFA) President Jason Schratwieser. “We laud Representatives Graves and Veasey for introducing legislation that acknowledges the importance of these structures and seeks to convert them into critical artificial reefs.”

“Nearshore and offshore production platforms and infrastructure play an integral role in fisheries production and fishing opportunities, especially in the Western Gulf of Mexico,” said Chris Macaluso, Director of the Center for Marine Fisheries at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership. “Some of the Gulf’s most productive coral and fish-producing reefs have been established on oil and gas platforms. They are incredible places to catch a variety of fish. That productivity is critical to the economy and culture of coastal communities in the Gulf and beyond. The TRCP applauds Representatives Graves and Veasey for this bi-partisan bill that takes into account the ecological importance of these reefs and the fishing opportunities they provide.”

The legislation amends the National Fishing Enhancement Act of 1984 to require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to conduct an assessment of the relationship between offshore infrastructure and marine ecosystems to determine whether converting to an artificial reef is appropriate. It also amends the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to provide flexibility within the decommissioning process to encourage greater participation in the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s Rigs-to-Reefs Program, while ensuring the safety of the environment and fisheries.

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