North Sea platforms are fish magnets

2011-09-29 16:26

London - Oil platforms in the North Sea are attracting more cod and haddock than previously thought and wind farm installations could be designed with reefs in mind to help attract fish.

Scientists have long been aware of the "reef effect" whereby artificial structures in the sea act as havens for fish, but a two year study by Aberdeen University academic Toyonobu Fujii has found structures in the sea attract more fish than previously thought.

"Previously people thought that this kind of effect only extended very, very locally for each individual platform," he said.

"Currently, all the offshore platforms and the safety zones around these platforms, combined, account for only 0.08% of the surface area of the North Sea. However, the proportion of fish abundance estimated to aggregate around these structures was much higher than the surface area alone would suggest."

Fujii, who has analysed trawl survey data of fish distribution in relation to oil and gas platform locations, said the reason for the higher numbers of fish was that pipelines and other sub-sea structures were also acting as reefs.


It is not yet known exactly why fish gather around the structures, Fujii said, calling for more research.

"If they are using these habitats as nursery or spawning grounds then the implications of the physical presence of these structures could be important," he said.

With the North Sea set for a makeover as a source of wind power over the next decade - the British government expects offshore wind to make up most of the renewable electricity capacity needed to reach its 2020 target - Fujii said he would like to carry out further research looking at the relationship between wind turbine structures and fish populations.

"If a certain design will attract more fish than the other, then a renewable energy structure can be redesigned to attract fish," he said.

  • Babwe - 2011-09-29 16:36

    Wonderful to read some good news!

  • Mikemcc - 2011-09-29 16:47

    There is a significant increase in fish life around platforms, if the water is calm its like looking at an aquarium. I think the increase in fish close to the structure mays have something to do with the fact that waste food is macerated and dropped into the sea. The actual structures themselves end up coated in marine growth and this in turn attracts those species that feed off this growth which attracts the predators of these fish and so on. It would be interesting to see if any other reasons abound in particular with regards to the impact of light and noise that these structures give off.

  • HONKY101 - 2011-09-29 16:54

    Mmmm no doubt a good place to do some spear-fishing

      Mikemcc - 2011-09-29 17:15

      @Honky101, there is a big problem with fishing vessels trying to get close to the platforms to increase their harvests. These vessels pose a threat to the installations (one never knows what their intentions are)and likewise the installations pose a threat to the fishing vessels in terms of possible releases of toxic and flammable gases or liquids. If the oil platform is a semi-submersible type they also have several anchors chains spreading out which also pose an obvious risk to fishing vessels. In light of this most governments around the world have banned fishing (recreational or otherwise)from the platforms as the local fishing communities obviously and perhaps fairly take exception to the fact that they are not allowed to take advantage of the 'safe-havens' but platform employees are.

      Mikemcc - 2011-09-29 17:21

      @Honky101 (contd), in addition to all of the above all oil platforms use huge amounts of sea water for various purposes and so they are equipped with many large pumps that draw in the sea water. These pumps would probably not take to much notice of you if they were to suck you in and turn you to mulch, strict procedures are in place in the event that divers are required to work anywhere near the platform to prevent such an occurence.

  • Sharkie - 2011-09-29 16:56

    and we're figuring this out only now......... seriously?

      john_jones - 2011-09-29 18:09

      Sharkie , hi. When something does not make sense - just look for the money. Any reef diver for the last 100 years could have told them this but the key to this story lies in the sentence ' Fujii said he would like to carry out further research '. Fujii wants some more tom to state the bleeding obvious. Money for nothing and chicks for free. It's lekker in that academic environment being a big nob with all those fresh nubile undergraduates. Who would'nt dream of a scheme to stay there - and get paid for it ?.

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