Recreational angling community calls for moratorium on rig removals

Urgency mounts over negative impacts of Idle Iron policy

Posted on June 07, 2012

A coalition of marine conservation, tackle and boating industry groups is calling for a halt to the
federal government’s destructive “Idle Iron” policy that threatens to dismantle what is regarded as the
largest artificial reef system in the world. In a letter to U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Ken Salazar,
the coalition calls for a moratorium to prevent the Idle Iron Policy from inflicting further irreparable
damage on an extensive range of marine fisheries and ecosystems.

“Our groups respectfully request a two-year moratorium on the Idle Iron guidance until a stakeholder
process can be developed to both determine the best methods to properly dismantle platforms that are
not serving as marine habitat and to protect those structures that are shown to harbor thriving marine
ecosystems,” states the letter signed by Coastal Conservation Association, Congressional Sportsmen’s
Foundation, American Sportfishing Association, National Marine Manufacturers Association, Center for
Coastal Conservation, The Billfish Foundation, and the International Game Fish Association.

“We offer our combined expertise and stand ready to be resources for your Department to develop more thoughtful
methods to achieve our shared goal of protecting the marine environment while conserving these
valuable artificial reefs.”

In a knee-jerk response to the 2010 Gulf oil spill, the U.S. Department of Interior issued the Idle Iron
directive in October of 2010 ordering that all non-producing rigs and platforms be plugged and any
remaining structure removed within five years of the issuance of that directive. Anglers have grown
increasingly frustrated over the increased pace of rig removals and the profound negative implications
for marine fisheries and local coastal communities and businesses that rely on the fishing opportunities
these structures provide.

“The entire issue of platform removals needs a much more thorough review given the incredible
array of priceless marine habitat at stake,” said Pat Murray, president of CCA. “Political leaders and
experts from across the spectrum have voiced serious concerns about the impacts of the Idle Iron
directive and are demanding a more reasoned process to evaluate these structures.”

The coalition has been working to include the Rigs to Reefs Habitat Protection Act filed by U.S.
Sen. David Vitter (R-La) into a sportsmen’s legislative package being crafted in the Senate. Opposition
to the bill from the Department of Interior has made that road more difficult, but efforts are underway to
insert language requiring a more thorough review and vetting process before any structures are removed
as a result of the Idle Iron Policy. Also encouraging, in April of 2012, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery
Management Council voted to begin the process of classifying rigs and other vital artificial reefs as
Essential Fish Habitat (EFH). If artificial reefs are eventually designated as EFH, all federal agencies
would then have to consult with NOAA Fisheries on federal actions that may adversely affect them. In
the last two months, both Texas Governor Rick Perry and U.S. Rep. Blake Farenthold (R-Texas) have
written letters to Salazar urging him to reconsider the policy.

“The bottom line is that irreparable damage is being done now – once those structures are removed it
is too late for the Department of Interior to determine it made a horrible mistake,” said Murray. “The
only reasonable thing to do is call a time-out and take a more thoughtful, cautious approach before we
lose any more habitat.”

Click HERE to see a copy of the groups’ letter posted on the CCA Rigs to Reefs page.