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Volume 16, Issue 10 p. 571-578
Research Communication

Environmental benefits of leaving offshore infrastructure in the ocean

Ashley M Fowler

Corresponding Author

Ashley M Fowler

Fish Ecology Laboratory, School of Life Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

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Anne-Mette Jørgensen

Anne-Mette Jørgensen

North Sea Futures, Copenhagen, Denmark

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Jon C Svendsen

Jon C Svendsen

National Institute of Aquatic Resources (DTU Aqua), Section for Ecosystem based Marine Management, Technical University of Denmark, Lyngby, Denmark

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Peter I Macreadie

Peter I Macreadie

Deakin University, Geelong, Australia, School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Faculty of Science and Built Environment, Centre for Integrative Ecology

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Daniel OB Jones

Daniel OB Jones

National Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton Waterfront Campus, European Way, Southampton, UK

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Arjen R Boon

Arjen R Boon

Department of Ecosystem and Sediment Dynamics, Deltares, Delft, the Netherlands

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David J Booth

David J Booth

Fish Ecology Laboratory, School of Life Sciences, University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

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Robin Brabant

Robin Brabant

Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Operational Directorate Natural Environment, Marine Ecology and Management, Brussels, Belgium

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Emily Callahan

Emily Callahan

Blue Latitudes LLC, San Diego, CA

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Jeremy T Claisse

Jeremy T Claisse

Department of Biological Sciences, California State Polytechnic University, Pomona, CA

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Thomas G Dahlgren

Thomas G Dahlgren

Uni Research, Bergen, Norway

Department of Marine Sciences, University of Gothenburg, Gothenburg, Sweden

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Steven Degraer

Steven Degraer

Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Operational Directorate Natural Environment, Marine Ecology and Management, Brussels, Belgium

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Quenton R Dokken

Quenton R Dokken

Texas Institute for Applied Environmental Research, Tarleton State University, Stephenville, TX

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Andrew B Gill

Andrew B Gill

PANGALIA Environmental, Ampthill, UK

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David G Johns

David G Johns

Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, The Laboratory, Plymouth, UK

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Robert J Leewis

Robert J Leewis

Warmond, The Netherlands

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Han J Lindeboom

Han J Lindeboom

Wageningen University, Chair group Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management, Wageningen, the Netherlands

Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, ‘t Horntje, the Netherlands

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Olof Linden

Olof Linden

World Maritime University, Malmö, Sweden

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Roel May

Roel May

Norwegian Institute for Nature Research, Trondheim, Norway

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Albertinka J Murk

Albertinka J Murk

Marine Animal Ecology Group, Wageningen University, Wageningen, the Netherlands

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Geir Ottersen

Geir Ottersen

Institute of Marine Research, Bergen, Norway

Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis, Department of Biosciences, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

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Donna M Schroeder

Donna M Schroeder

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Camarillo, CA

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Sunil M Shastri

Sunil M Shastri

Hull, UK

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Jonas Teilmann

Jonas Teilmann

Marine Mammal Research, Department of Bioscience, Aarhus University, Roskilde, Denmark

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Victoria Todd

Victoria Todd

Ocean Science Consulting Ltd, Dunbar, UK

School of Media Arts and Technology, Southampton Solent University, Southampton, UK

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Gert Van Hoey

Gert Van Hoey

Flanders Research Institute for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, Department of Aquatic Environment and Quality, Oostende, Belgium

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Jan Vanaverbeke

Jan Vanaverbeke

Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences, Operational Directorate Natural Environment, Marine Ecology and Management, Brussels, Belgium

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Joop WP Coolen

Joop WP Coolen

Wageningen University, Chair group Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality Management, Wageningen, the Netherlands

Wageningen Marine Research, Den Helder, the Netherlands

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First published: 03 July 2018
Citations: 86

Abstract

The removal of thousands of structures associated with oil and gas development from the world's oceans is well underway, yet the environmental impacts of this decommissioning practice remain unknown. Similar impacts will be associated with the eventual removal of offshore wind turbines. We conducted a global survey of environmental experts to guide best decommissioning practices in the North Sea, a region with a substantial removal burden. In contrast to current regulations, 94.7% of experts (36 out of 38) agreed that a more flexible case-by-case approach to decommissioning could benefit the North Sea environment. Partial removal options were considered to deliver better environmental outcomes than complete removal for platforms, but both approaches were equally supported for wind turbines. Key considerations identified for decommissioning were biodiversity enhancement, provision of reef habitat, and protection from bottom trawling, all of which are negatively affected by complete removal. We provide recommendations to guide the revision of offshore decommissioning policy, including a temporary suspension of obligatory removal.