MOBILE, Ala. (WPMI) It is called Idle Iron, and a byproduct is tens of thousands of dead fish, mainly red snapper.
Idle Iron is a federally mandated program to remove thousands of oil and gas wells in the gulf that are no longer producing.
They may not be producing fuel, but there is no denying, they are producing a rich environment for all kinds of sea life.
"They provide habitat for some rare corals that are protected, and of course, the fin fish, red snapper, are most valuable fish resource in the gulf,” said Dr. Bob Shipp of the USA Marine Resources Department.
With each rig demolition, experts estimate about 10 thousand pounds of fish, mainly red snapper, is destroyed. It's happening every day, all along the gulf coast, from Texas to Alabama.
There has been a firestorm of response since Local 15 News aired undercover video of the dead fish.
"Yea, it went viral, and it got to some pretty important people, and it's made a real issue of this thing, which it should do,” said Shipp.
Representative Jo Bonner said, "I can't tell you how many people watched your story, called our office, and said you go, keep the pressure on the government."
And that's exactly what he is doing. After viewing our video, he fired off a letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar. "We asked for a cease and desist. Immediate stop of this program," said Bonner.
The senseless killing of millions of pounds of red snapper is only half this story. As the federal government mandates the destruction of these habitats, and invariably all these fish, the federal government is also saying there aren't enough red snapper in the gulf.
Just two weeks ago, the Gulf Fishery Management Council again shortened the season for red snapper, now the shortest in history, just 27 days.
Tom Steber manages Zeke's Landing in Orange Beach, home to dozens of charter fishing boats.
He has seen first hand how the continued shrinking of the red snapper season has cost this area thousands of jobs and millions of dollars.
"27 days in June means absolutely nothing to us. We need our days, and we need 6 months. We need it in April and May especially,” said Steber.
Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon said, "It's just pure lunacy. You've got bureaucrats in Washington creating regulations for those of us down here, there is no connection. These guys probably don't know how to bait their own hook, but they're telling us what we can catch."
Federal fishing regulations are across the board, the same for every state along the gulf.
But each state is uniquely different. Alabama has done the best job of creating habitat for red snapper.
Not counting the oil rigs, Alabama has the largest artificial reef zone in the entire world. Some 17 thousand artificial reefs have been dropped in the water off Alabama's coast.
"We don't have the right to harvest that crop that we cultivate. There is no logic or reason out there that should deny us that right," said Kennon.
The science bares it out. "Not only have the stocks recovered, there are more than anytime in history,” said Shipp.
Ralph Atkins has been at Southern Fish and Oyster for almost 5 decades. He said, "Now there's snapper being caught right in the Mobile River. My daddy would have fainted if ya told him there'd be snapper in Mobile River."
"The hypocrisy of it," says Bonner, "The government telling you or me we can only go out and fish a few days a year, and we can only catch this much fish, and the government going out, same government and killing 10's, perhaps millions of pounds of fish each year."
He went on to say, "Again, I can't say enough thanks to channel 15 for bringing this story to the surface."