TBT – What to do with decommissioned Oil Rigs In California?

The future ex-oil rig Holly.

On April 17th, Venoco oil announced that they would be ceasing operations on platform Holly, which lies about 2 miles offshore of UCSB in the Santa Barbara Channel.  Because the rig is in California state waters, the California State Lands Commission has ordered a complete removal of the rig and capping of the well and restoration of the site to as natural a state as is possible. While this is seen as a big victory by many environmental groups, there are quite a few voices in the ocean community that see leaving some or all of the underwater structure as a way to preserve a unique and burgeoning ecosystem.

Holly holding bait fish in abundance during the 1970’s. Photo and copyright by Bob Evans.

Established when these rigs were first constructed in the 60’s and 70’s, extensive and complex ecosystems flourish underneath the platforms that lie just off California’s coast. As evidenced in studies, it is fairly well agreed that these rig reefs produce large amount of biomass comparable to any marine fish habitats globally. 

So the question is, should we accept the trade-off of keeping some structure in place to preserve these unique ecosystems? I think there is a good argument to do just that. For Throwback Thursday, I’m presenting some pictures of rig Holly from the 1970’s when the amazing animal and plant  communities were first being discovered by local divers. Taken by Bob Evans, founder, creator, and the “force” behind the Force Fin, these great photos give an early glimpse into what many people now regard as one of the richest undersea communities you’ll likely encounter.

For more information on the process of conversion, visit the folks at Blue Latitudes and  Rigs to Reef. Also, special thanks to Bob Evans for giving us a cool glimpse into the life under the rigs.

In this day and age where science is under attack and pristine wild spaces are under threat, the chance to save something so special is something we need to consider. Take a look at these amazing photos and I think you’ll agree.

We’ll see see you out there.


A variety of fish sitting inside the structure of Holly at 120 feet, which is covered by metridium and scallops. Photo and copyright by Bob Evans.
This is an aquaculture experiment conducted under Holly to test the potential to grow out red abalone. Come for the shellfish and stay for the groovy retro 70’s dive gear. Photo and copyright by Bob Evans.


Today is the first World Tuna Day, celebrating one of our most important fish. With over 80 countries worldwide having tuna fishing fleets, these “lions of the ocean” supply food security and nutrition, economic development, employment, government revenue, livelihoods, culture and recreation to millions of people across the globe.

All is not rosy for tuna though. There are major declines in tuna stock which threaten many different stakeholders, not the least of which is the tuna themselves.

Some groups are asking that you celebrate by not eating tuna today but I think your time could be better spent reading this letter from the Pew Foundation which gives a frank assessment of the the challenges tuna face moving forward and some successes that scientist and fishery managers are having as they look to protect them.

A lot to  think about but I think Tuna are worth it. See you out there.