There are over 2300 standing oil and gas platforms in the northern Gulf of Mexico (GOM). It has been argued that platforms provide reef-like habitat that increases the growth and survival rates of fishes by increasing prey availability and affording shelter for protection from predators, provide additional spawning substrate, and by acting as a visual attractant for organisms not otherwise dependent upon hard bottom. Platforms differ from most natural habitats, and from traditional artificial reefs, in that their vertical profile extends upward through the water column into the photic zone and the sea surface. Increased habitat quality on, or immediately around, oil and gas platforms are thought to be derived from increased in situ food production associated with encrustation by fouling organisms. In this chapter, we address the issue of how to evaluate the role of artificial reefs by first establishing levels of evaluation for individual fish species found on oil and gas platforms in the GOM. The levels of evaluation relate to the amount and adequacy of the available information, which was populated with an extensive literature and data search. Three levels of assessment are established, analogous to the levels of analysis established National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries for identification of Essential Fish Habitat. More than 1300 documents, including reports, stock assessments, other gray literature, and papers published in the primary literature, were used to complete this chapter. When available, published literature was the preferred source of information.
Part of the book: Fisheries and Aquaculture in the Modern World