The north west of Western Australia has productive commercial and recreational fisheries and extensive offshore oil and gas (O&G) infrastructure. These man-made structures support a range of demersal and pelagic fishes which are targeted by recreational and commercial fishers. As this O&G infrastructure reaches the end of its productive life, decisions on the best practice option for decommissioning must be made. The current policy for decommissioning requires complete removal. Regulators may support alternative strategies, such as leaving infrastructure in place, if risks and impacts are minimised and there are clear environmental, social and economic benefits to do so. It is thought that removal of infrastructure will decrease catch rates and have negative ecological, economic (direct and downstream) and social consequences.
At the same time as the discussion is occurring about removing O&G infrastructure, there have been large investments in constructing and installing purpose built man-made aquatic structures on the seafloor for the express purpose of enhancing the experience of recreational fishers and SCUBA divers.
There is a need to deliver critical information on: 1) the ecological, economic and social value of these man-made structures to recreational and commercial fishers and other stakeholders; 2) the attitudes of stakeholders to man-made structures; and 3) the opportunities and risks of decommissioning strategies to fishers and other groups (e.g. tourism).
Policy regarding the removal of decommissioned structures will benefit from the increased clarity that this project will provide in regards to data requirements for socio-economic models and stakeholder consultation methods. Comparative assessments of decommissioning options rely on the existence of appropriate socio-economic data, a knowledge gap this project aims to fill. An understanding of the impact of man-made aquatic structures on recreational and commercial fisheries is a global priority, and as such this project has strong international importance and relevance.