Offshore oil rigs host diversity and quantity of sea life. Surprised? Yes, we are. But this is science.
In a 15-year study, researchers found that the ecosystems that build up around artificial rigs host 1,000 percent more fish and other sea life than natural habitats such as reefs and estuaries. The California rigs outstripped even famously rich ecosystems such as the coral reefs of French Polynesia.
Now, as a big fan of artificial reefs, I think this is exciting news. There are many who oppose the idea of improving on God's -- or, if you prefer, Gaia's -- design. This strikes me as crazy, given the fact that virtually all of the food we eat and the clothes we wear are the products of human innovation. When humans ran out of gazelles or bison to hunt, they had the great idea of catching a few and raising a renewable supply. When picking wild seeds and berries no longer fed the tribe, it dawned on humans to plant their own.
Fish pose a special problem, however, because many species are difficult to farm. And even when fish are adaptable to aquaculture, there are special risks and costs involved. As a result, the oceans are still being overfished, thanks in no small part to the tragedy of the commons. (Since no one owns the ocean, fishing fleets often grab as much as they can.)
According to Jeremy Claisse, the lead author of the study, the reason rigs are particularly beneficial stems from the fact they're so tall. A skyscraper from seafloor to surface apparently lends itself to a very rich ecosystem. The fact that it's an oil rig is, of course, irrelevant. ...