Sunday, May 27 , 2018, 6:38 am | Fair 49º


Local News


Captain’s Log: Oil Rigs of Life

I’ve been fishing near the oil rigs off of Santa Barbara a lot recently, thanks to a strong El Niño run of yellowtail (a hard-fighting member of the jack family that visits us along with these stormy weather patterns). While fishing very near the rigs I’ve been observing closely and thinking hard about their value in terms of life.

I believe those oil rigs off our shore create, attract and sustain more life than all of the enviro-orgs crying, “The sky is falling, and the world is being destroyed, so send us your money,” can ever hope to accomplish. 

These are our rigs of life in the sea, and for more decades than most of us can remember, they have generated abundant life. Our ocean and critters lost big-time when the four inshore rigs off of Padero Lane and Carpinteria were removed some years back.

They were taken down to the ground and all that was left were mounds of mussel shells. Well, there went millions and millions of lives that we desperately need and want in our thriving ocean. 

There was argument about whether they attracted or produced life. That argument is long over. They do both. They attract and provide sorely-needed habitat for sea life, which dwell and reproduce at an accelerated pace because there is life-sustaining food and abundant habitat around the rigs.

The massive amount of life and the interdependencies of the food chain at our rigs of life is astounding to look at, even at the surface where so much action happens. 

For hundreds of feet below the surface, those huge structural pieces support life ranging from too small to see with the naked eye to very large critters with large appetites. The whole food chain concentrates around those legs and supporting cross members, and it doesn’t stop at the surface, because the structure above the waterline serves pinnipeds and birds which feed on the life below.

Arguments about oil have raged and will continue to rage, but the oil rigs are here, and we do consume oil products at a staggering rate, so we need them somewhere. I’m not one to say put them in someone else’s back yard.

Yes, there have been times when accidents have cost marine lives, but I believe that over all of these decades there has been a massive positive balance in favor of lives generated and saved. 

When I look closely at the rigs from a close-up and personal perspective, I see the obvious… they are massive life generators and supporters, leading me to call them our rigs of life.

We need more structure such as reefs made of reef balls and quarry rock, and we need to keep our oil rig structures even after we decommission them, because to have abundant sea life, we need to create and maintain more supporting habitats.

— Capt. David Bacon operates WaveWalker Charters and is president of SOFTIN Inc., a nonprofit organization providing seafaring opportunities for those in need. Visit to learn more about the organization and how you can help. Click here to read previous columns. The opinions expressed are his own.

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