The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries and Apache Corporation have agreed to explore ways to preserve the fish habitat at Ship Shoal 26, also known as the Pickets, a popular hotspot for anglers, especially those seeking speckled trout and redfish.
At the recommendation of the Department, Apache Corporation, owner of the platform, agreed to delay the decommissioning the structure and will foot the bill for a water bottom survey to determine the extent of rock and shell pads present. LDWF biologists believe the rock and shell structures still see a significant amount of production, even if the main structure were to be removed. The oil field has reached the end of its productive life and the structures are required to be removed under federal regulations.
When an oil-field structure is removed from an area, but the associated rock pad around the base remains or is enhanced with additional appropriate material, the area will continue to provide habitat for surrounding species.
Speckled trout and redfish are typically associated with low to mid-relief structure, which provide a refuge from currents, where they can remain in an area without expending energy while preying on food as it is carried across the structure.
The six to eight week survey will assess the status of the existing bottom structure since the platform was installed in the late 1960s and early 1970s, before precise installation records were available. The Department and the U.S. Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement will then determine the best course of action, which may involve augmenting the site with concrete and additional materials to enhance fish production and provide habitat. If this strategy is implemented, the remnant of the platform or its enhanced shell pad will then be marked with buoys.
“We encouraged Apache to take a look at this alternative opportunity to the preserve the immense value of the Pickets for our recreational anglers,” explained LDWF Assistant Secretary Randy Pausina. “One of our Department’s greatest priorities is to ensure that we offer the recreational angler the best fishing experience possible, and we’re so pleased Apache is interested in being a good steward of the environment and working with us toward this goal.”
The Coastal Conservation Association of Louisiana has also expressed an interest in working with the Department as they have in the past on similar reef projects. “CCA Louisiana has committed to partnering with the Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to enhance the shell pad through a reef building project very similar to our recent efforts across Louisiana,” said John Walther, CCA Louisiana Habitat Chairman. “We look forward to the opportunity to create an even better habitat for our favorite marine species while we create a blueprint for similar projects in the future. This is a win-win situation for everyone!”
The Ship Shoal 26 structure will remain intact until the survey is complete. At that point, all parties involved will determine the best course of action moving forward, but Louisiana anglers can expect their beloved fishing spot is safe for now.