Graves sponsors bipartisan Marine Fisheries Habitat Protection Act

U.S. Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) on Dec. 14 sponsored a bipartisan bill that would require the Under Secretary of Commerce for Oceans and Atmosphere to assess certain offshore oil and gas platforms and pipelines for potential use as artificial reefs.

Since 2000, over 60 percent of the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico have been removed, eliminating critical reef habitat and decreasing access for recreational and commercial fishing, according to the congressman.

“Everyone who goes fishing off the coast of Louisiana knows that the best catches come when you’re close to a rig,” Rep. Graves said. “Casting aside our favorite fishing spots by thoughtlessly removing energy infrastructure threatens the health of our offshore ecosystems and reduces opportunities for folks to fish in Sportsman’s Paradise.”

Rep. Graves introduced the Marine Fisheries Habitat Protection Act, H.R. 6814, alongside lead original cosponsor U.S. Rep. Marc Veasey (D-TX).

If enacted, the bill would require the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to conduct an assessment of the relationship between offshore infrastructure and marine ecosystems to determine whether converting to an artificial reef is appropriate, according to a bill summary provided by the lawmakers.

H.R. 6814 also would amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to provide flexibility within the decommissioning process to encourage greater participation in the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement’s Rigs-to-Reefs Program, the summary says.

“Our bill will encourage participation in the Rigs-to-Reefs program and highlights what can be accomplished when a diverse group of stakeholders work together to accomplish shared goals,” said Rep. Graves.

Rep. Veasey added that H.R. 6814 would help create a pathway for more Rigs-to-Reefs conversions and bolster the overall program, which “is repurposing out-of-service offshore oil and natural gas production platforms into thriving areas for aquatic wildlife.”

The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation, the American Sportfishing Association, the Coastal Conservation Association, the International Game Fish Association, the Center for Marine Fisheries at the Theodore Roosevelt Conservation Partnership, and the Center for Sportfishing Policy support the proposed bill.