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Federal Mandate Kills Thousands of Red Snapper in the Gulf

A federally mandated program designed to demolish decommissioned oil and gas rigs in the Gulf of Mexico is removing more than just aging iron, it's killing thousands of red snapper and other ocean life.

The program, "Idle Iron,” had been taking place with little public knowledge or concern before Local 15 TV in Mobile, Alabama released footage of the oil rig demolition process and its aftermath. Few knew the severity of the situation until images were made public of thousands of dead red snapper.

At the same time this devastation is taking place, the federal government is saying there aren't enough red snapper in the Gulf. Stock assessments seem to be putting red snapper in the danger zone, calling for the shortest red snapper season in history this year, just 27 days.

Meanwhile, gulf coast fishermen and charter boat captains claim that red snapper stocks are in great health, with possibly some of the best snapper fishing they have seen in decades. The amount of floating dead red snapper alone in the video is strong support of these claims.

What the undercover video does not show is the damage that is done under the water. Along with the thousands of fish and natural reefs that may suffer now, the rigs have become quintessential fish havens. Removing them could prevent future stocks from populating as they once did in those areas.

"They provide habitat for some rare corals that are protected, and of course, the fin fish, red snapper, are most valuable fish resource in the Gulf,” said Dr. Bob Shipp of the University of South Alabama Marine Resources Department. “What's worse, for the long term, is that habitat is destroyed,” remarked Shipp. Shipp has been heavily involved with this issue and has made a motion to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council to come up with a plan to declare these structures as Essential Fish Habitat (EFH).

Labeling the remaining platforms as EFH would press the National Marine Fisheries Service to recommend they not be removed to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, who reviews each companies decommissioning plans.

Among the opposing forces, Alabama Congressman Jo Bonner has taken a strong interest in this matter, insisting United States Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar cease and desist the “Idle Iron” program.

Ken Salazar announced in 2010 the initial “Idol Iron” plan to dismantle 650 oil and gas production platforms in the Gulf. Since then, the program has met much opposition from organizations such as the Coastal Conservation Association and the Louisiana Council of Underwater Dive Clubs (LCUDC), who have been fighting for the platforms to reach EFH status.

The LCUDC and a handful of other organizations have been patiently waiting for this issue to come to light. Thanks to the viral undercover video of the dead fish, anglers are finally fired up and ready to take action against this puzzling contradiction.

Below you can find the original report by Local 15 TV. The link provided here is the follow up report with greater detail on the issue:

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