Structure size may affect fish density around oil platforms

Lawrence, Joshua M. and Heath, Michael R. and Speirs, Douglas C. and Fernandes, Paul G. (2024) Structure size may affect fish density around oil platforms. ICES Journal of Marine Science. fsae083. ISSN 1054-3139 (

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Thousands of offshore oil and gas platforms have been installed worldwide and are known to act as artificial reefs. Many platforms are nearing the end of their operational lives and will soon require decommissioning, but uncertainty remains about the impacts of these structures, and their removal, on the environment. Fish aggregate at platforms, but little is known about the extent of these effects in the North Sea and the causes of variability in these associations. Here, an uncrewed surface vessel (USV) was used to collect fisheries acoustic data on distributions of schooling and non-schooling fish around six oil platforms, collecting data within tens of metres of four of the surveyed platforms. In areas with more platforms, more non-schooling fish were found, and the probability of detecting fish schools was higher. Interplatform variability was found in trends in non-schooling fish density with increasing distance from platform, but the relationship was found to be strongest and most negative at the larger platforms. These findings may influence future management decisions around the decommissioning of these platforms, particularly if some structure is to be left in place to maximize the potential benefits associated with these artificial reef effects.