Marine Life Thrives in Unlikely Place: Offshore Oil Rigs
Eight miles off the coast of Long Beach, Calif., the oil rig Eureka, which has stood here for 40 years, is a study in contrasts. From a distance, it looks like just another offshore platform, an artifact of the modern industrial landscape.
But beneath the waves, the Eureka and other rigs like it in the area are home to a vast and thriving community of sea life that some scientists say is one of the richest marine ecosystems on the planet.
“They are more productive than coral reefs, more productive than estuaries,” said Milton Love, a professor of marine biology at the University of California Santa Barbara. “It just turns out by chance that platforms have a lot of animals that are growing really quickly.”
Scientists and divers have been aware of the abundant life here for years, but a 2014 paper that Love co-wrote, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, confirmed what many experts had already suspected: that most of the life was actually created at the rig rather than having come from other parts of the ocean and settled around the massive concrete pylons.
“For some of these major economic species like the rockfishes, there’s no question that there are more of them out in Southern California waters because the platform is there,” Love said.