How oil rigs could save the ocean?

The Conversation asks if dragging old oil rigs out into specially designated areas of the deep ocean and simply dumping them there would be good for the environment!

The gains for the environment are of course an artificial reef with all the benefits that implies; fish hatcheries, nurseries, and a natural barrier to bottom trawlers!

Trawlers are gradually turning the ocean floor into a barren moonscape, literally scraping life off the bottom of the ocean and saving maybe 10% for food markets while the rest is by-catch. It’s disgusting. It should be illegal. In some places it is illegal, but has to be policed. Not any more if this oil rig proposal happens! Sinking oil rigs like this would create an instant marine park with physical — not legislative — protection from bottom-trawlers. Now that’s awesome!

Tom Blees raises a similar prospect for dealing with the (unlikely) scenario of society having too much rock-wool waste from Plasma Burners. In other words, not only will Plasma Burners make landfill tips a wasteful horror of the past, and not only will they recycle everything (but radioactive waste), they’ll also produce so much rock wool for building homes and cars and insulation that the author, Tom Blees, has wondered what to do with the excess? Again, just as with the oil rigs, dump them in strategic points in the ocean.

If any plasma plant found itself with a saturated building materials market and had to look at disposal of the slag, the simple expedient of having some molds handy would be ideal. The molten slag could be poured into molds of various shapes optimally designed for use as artificial reefs. There’s an organization that has been manufacturing what they call “reef balls” for some time now, constructing artificial reefs around the world. (Currently they’re made of concrete, but slag would work great.) Whereas it may seem logical to think that this sort of thing might make sense in the tropics where coral reefs are most commonly found, one need only look at artificial reef projects off New Jersey or even farther north to see that the range of possibilities is nearly endless.

While the sea’s seemingly limitless bounty might lead people to believe that it’s teeming with life, the truth is that the vast majority of the sea bottom is relatively featureless and barren. All along the continental shelves there stretch seemingly limitless expanses of relatively smooth terrain with a minimal amount of animal and plant life. But drop a pile of nearly any solid material onto the bottom and watch what happens. As soon as there’s something to anchor to, planktonic organisms like barnacles, corals, sponges, sea squirts and others will come floating by and latch on. Crustaceans will make their homes in the nooks and crannies. Fish will arrive and take up residence. Pretty soon you’ve created an entire community, a little neighborhood ecosystem where virtually nothing lived before.

Human communities that have created artificial reefs offshore have seen them generate not only fish but dollars. Sport fishermen who had no reason to visit before now suddenly find good fishing. Even commercial fishing is enhanced, especially where extensive reef building has resulted in ever more diverse fish populations. In a time when pollution and destructive fishing and mining practices have damaged or utterly destroyed natural reefs in many parts of the world, this possibility of dramatically increasing the biological carrying capacity of continental shelves is a golden opportunity. Permits to dispose of reef-ready slag could be issued to plasma operators by local boards using the advice of marine biologists hired to advise on the optimum locations and volumes of artificial reef materials. Who would ever have imagined that our garbage could be put to such good use?

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