Against a background where a sharp division of stakeholder opinion exists between proponents and opponents, I provide an evaluation of the rigs-to-reefs concept in the North Sea in terms of abandonment legislation, scientific foundation, and perceived acceptability to the environmental and fishing sectors. An analysis of the political situation suggests the need for a revision of the United Kingdom's Best Practicable Environmental Option process. Priority attention should be given to the issues of drill-cuttings piles and the long-term fate of reefs. Offshore reef creation, including deployment in conjunction with a "no fishing" policy, is assessed as politically sensitive and difficult to achieve. Finding supporting beneficiaries and solving cost implications are deemed critical to the planning of a nearshore reef programme. The importance of a genuine stakeholder dialogue process is stressed, as is the crucial role of fishermen to the success of rigs-to-reefs ventures. © 2002 International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. Published by Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.