Oil platforms off California are among the most productive marine fish habitats globally
Secondary (i.e., heterotrophic or animal) production is a main pathway of energy flow through an ecosystem as it makes energy available to consumers, including humans. Its estimation can play a valuable role in the examination of linkages between ecosystem functions and services. We found that oil and gas platforms off the coast of California have the highest secondary fish production per unit area of seafloor of any marine habitat that has been studied, about an order of magnitude higher than fish communities from other marine ecosystems. Most previous estimates have come from estuarine environments, generally regarded as one of the most productive ecosystems globally. High rates of fish production on these platforms ultimately result from high levels of recruitment and the subsequent growth of primarily rockfish (genus Sebastes) larvae and pelagic juveniles to the substantial amount of complex hardscape habitat created by the platform structure distributed throughout the water column. The platforms have a high ratio of structural surface area to seafloor surface area, resulting in large amounts of habitat for juvenile and adult demersal fishes over a relatively small footprint of seafloor. Understanding the biological implications of these structures will inform policy related to the decommissioning of existing (e.g., oil and gas platforms) and implementation of emerging (e.g., wind, marine hydrokinetic) energy technologies.