Reported by: John Dzenitis
MOBILE, Ala. (WPMI) A federal mandate to remove old, abandoned oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico is blowing up a lot more than just the rigs.
Undercover video obtained by Local 15 shows thousands of pounds of dead fish, mostly red snapper, floating to the surface after one of the controversial demolitions in the Gulf.
"Good Lord," marine scientist Dr. Bob Shipp said, when Local 15 showed him the video. "As a scientist, I think it’s abominable."
Shipp said the demolitions are frequent, sometimes three a week in the Gulf, but are seldom video-taped. Shipp also sits on the Gulf Fisheries Management Council, and has been a strong opponent of the demolitions.
"It’s a double whammy," Shipp said, "Not only are we killing a lot of snapper, but we’re also destroying their habitat."
The old rigs are an eye-sore, but under the surface, they’ve developed into artificial reefs with rich coral habitats. On some of the older rigs, those habitats have grown over the course of 30 to 40 years.
The killing of the red snapper is also infuriating charter boat captains and anglers. Federal restrictions keep cutting the red snapper season shorter and quotas smaller to protect the species from over-fishing.
"They tell us not to fish [red snapper] but they’re blowing them up," charter boat Captain Jason Domange told Local 15, "It’s a cryin’ shame."
The confidential source who provided Local 15 the video estimated 10,000 pounds of fish, mostly red snapper, were killed after that one demolition.
"That’s a year’s salary for a lot of people and that’s just going to waste," Domange said.
Dr. Shipp said the killing of red snapper has both environmental and economical ramifications.
"We’re talking about the most valuable fish species in the Gulf of Mexico, the one on which so much tourism, industry and restaurants depend," Shipp said, "Then we see something like this, which is just a blatant waste of a very precious resource."
Before Domange was a charter boat captain, he worked on oil and gas rigs all across the Gulf Coast. He’s seen plenty of demolitions and fish kills, but has never seen one on video-tape.
"A lot of [the demolitions were] hush hush, unsaid, and unseen," Domange said, "This is the first video that’s been produced, that I’ve seen. Hopefully it shines a lot of light."
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