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Harte Research Institute Director to Brief Congress on Artificial Reefs

March 07, 2013

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CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas – Dr. Larry McKinney, Executive Director of the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies (HRI), has been asked to lead a congressional briefing about artificial reefs on Monday, March 11, in Washington, D.C. The briefing has been organized by the International Conservation Caucus Foundation.

Approximately 4,000 oil and gas platforms that dot the northwestern Gulf of Mexico supply a significant part of the United States’ energy needs. Because these platforms provide fish habitat, they also support a nearly billion-dollar-a-year sport fishery that translates to hundreds of jobs in the Texas Coastal Bend region. These platforms are now reaching the end of their productive lives and are rapidly being removed. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department supports an innovative program to convert these structures into artificial reefs instead of being cut up for scrap. It is an industrial scale recycling program where all parties benefit.

New federal directives have accelerated the pace of platform removal beyond the ability of reefing programs to keep up the recycling effort. This is causing great concern to the fishing community and those whose livelihoods depend on fishing. Communities, like Port Aransas, are especially concerned because of the potential economic losses.  Organizations such as the Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) are working with legislators including Congressman Blake Farenthold and oil and gas companies, like Apache and Shell, to find ways to ease the conversion of the platforms into artificial reefs.

“The economic and conservation stakes are very high and we cannot afford to miss the opportunity to convert as many of these platforms into artificial reefs as possible,” said Dr. McKinney.  “I have greatly appreciated the efforts of our congressional, industry and CCA leaders to try and find a solution. We need that same cooperation from the federal agencies that oversee these issues, if we hope to be successful.”

Recreational saltwater fishing in Texas generates more than $981 million dollars in retail sales a year with an annual economic impact of $1.7 billion dollars. According to the latest information available from the US Fish and Wildlife Service, saltwater fishing witnessed the creation of nearly 1,000 new jobs each year from 2001 to 2006. Offshore fishing in Texas accounts for nearly half of that total, and the Coastal Bend is one of the leading saltwater fishing centers in the state.

The briefing is scheduled for Monday, March 11, at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Standard Time in the Sam Rayburn Federal Building, Room 2168, in Washington, D.C. Following the briefing, Dr. McKinney’s presentation will be posted on the HRI website at http://www.harteresearchinstitute.org.

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