Jun 222008
 

Off shore oil rigs stretch from Long Beach to Santa Maria on the coast of California. Some are decommissioned, but most are still in active operation. These rigs are in deep water; their support structures rise from depths of 600 feet. These pillars and cross beams act as an open water oasis – a home for reef & wall critters, and a resting/feeding stop for open ocean species. These rigs are also no-take zones, which mean there is no fishing or harvesting allowed near them.

Some of these rigs allow dive boats to bring out scuba divers to explore the bits of life that now call the support structure home. The Eureka Oil Rig off the coast of Long Beach is one of those rigs. I signed on with three other divers to explore the rig and then chum for sharks in the Avalon Channel with the Psalty V out of San Pedro.

We were lucky and caught 60 foot visibility on the rig that morning. Sea lions barked from the catwalks above, but didn’t get in the water to play. The supports are covered in anemones, scallops, and invertebrates. In parts the supports are at angles, in other parts, vertical in groups, like Greek columns. Reef fish like sheephead, calico bass, and garibaldi buzzed around us as we explored. In open ocean away from the structure I found several types of salp – barrel shaped filter feeders. It was a gorgeous dive.

Next up we chummed for several hours in hopes of finding some blue or mako sharks in the channel. Unfortunately, nothing showed up. Another unfortunate indication that shark populations are decimated. It used to be a sure thing to find sharks in the channel, now sightings are very rare. With time and proper legislation and enforcement, some day it may be a sure thing again.

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