The Louisiana Artificial Reef Program was established in 1986 to take advantage of obsolete oil and gas platforms which were recognized as providing habitat important to many of Louisiana's coastal fishes. Federal law and international treaty require these platforms to be removed one year after production ceases. The removal of these platforms results in a loss of reef habitat.
Since the program's inception in 1986, 71 oil and gas related companies have participated in the program and donated primarily the jackets of oil and gas structures. In addition to the material, companies also donate one half their realized savings over a traditional onshore removal into Louisiana's Artificial Reef Trust Fund. In 1999, the Louisiana Program created the world's largest artificial reef from the Freeport sulfur mine off Grand Isle Louisiana. The sulfur mine, with over 1.5 miles of bridgework, is composed of more than 29 structures. The reef is in 42-50 feet of water and has 27 feet of clearance. For safety of navigation it is marked by 5 lighted buoys. Forty (40) Armored Personnel Carriers (APC's) and one offshore tug are also deployed within two offshore artificial reefs.
The reef program has also developed 30 inshore reefs in Louisiana's state waters, primarily low profile reefs composed of shell or limestone. Eight inshore artificial reefs have been constructed using reef balls. Recylced concrete from the decommissioning of the old I-10 Twin Span bridges and other concrete sources have been utilized to develop new inshore reefs. Seven inshore reefs were constructed by LDWF and twenty-three others were constructed in partnership with public conservation, private groups and other governmental entities.
The Oil & Gas Industry
Louisiana's offshore oil and gas industry began in 1947 when the first well was drilled out of sight of land south of Terrebonne parish. Over 7,000 offshore oil and gas platforms have been installed in the Gulf of Mexico which have supplied natural gas and oil to the United States. In addition to meeting the world's energy needs, these structures also form one of the world's most extensive de-facto artificial reef systems. However, Federal regulations require that these structures be removed within one year after the lease is terminated. Since 1973, 4,100 of these platforms have been decommissioned. Disposal of obsolete offshore oil and gas structures is not only a net financial liability for private industry but can be a public loss of productive marine habitat.
The Louisiana Fishing Enhancement Act was signed into law in 1986, creating the Louisiana Artificial Reef Program. This program was designed to take advantage of fishing opportunities provided by these obsolete platforms. Since the program's inception, 71 offshore reefs utilizing the jackets of 320 obsolete platforms, have been created off Louisiana's coast. Gulfwide, over 400 obsolete platforms have been converted into permanent artificial reefs.
The use of obsolete oil and gas platforms in Louisiana has proved to be highly successful. Their large numbers, design, longevity and stability have provided a number of advantages over the use of traditional artificial reef materials. The participating companies also save money by converting the structure into a reef rather than abandoning it onshore and are required to donate a portion of the savings to operate the state program.
One disadvantage, however, is that their large size restricts the distance to shore where these platforms can be sited. To achieve the minimum clearance of 85 ft as required by the Coast Guard regulations, the platforms must be placed in waters in excess of 100 ft. Waters compatible with reef development are generally found between 30 and 70 miles off Louisiana's gently sloping continental shelf, making them accessible to anglers with offshore vessels.
Funds generated by the program can be used to develop reefs closer to shore using alternative low profile materials.
Oil and gas development in the Gulf of Mexico region has and will continue to contribute to the Gulf's position as the nation's most productive and popular offshore marine fishing zone.
Artificial Reef Maps & Coordinates
- General Artificial Reef Map
- General Artificial Reef Map (lower resolution)
- Offshore Reef Guide
- Inshore Reef Guide
Multi-beam Reef Survey Imagery & Coordinates
The surveying of the offshore reefs has been completed. Click the links to view or download PDFs containing imagery of the reefs and coordinates for the structures.
- All Offshore Reefs (10 MB)
Offshore Reefs by Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) areas:
- East Cameron Reefs
- Eugene Island Reefs
- Garden Bank Reef
- Grand Isle Reef- (Freeport Sulphur Mine Reef)
- Green Canyon Reef
- Main Pass Reefs
- Mississippi Canyon Reef
- Ship Shoal Reefs
- South Marsh Island Reefs
- South Pass Reef
- South Timbalier Reefs
- Vermilion Reefs
- West Cameron Reefs
- West Delta Reefs
For more information contact:
LA Department of Wildlife and Fisheries
PO Box 98000
Baton Rouge, LA 70808