Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Proposed Expansion

Building on more than 30 years of scientific studies, including numerous reports released in the last decade and in the aftermath of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster, NOAA today announced a proposal to expand Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary to protect additional critical Gulf of Mexico habitat.

The plan lays out five expansion scenarios, ranging from no expansion of the 56-square-mile sanctuary, to one bringing it to a total of 935 square miles. In NOAA's preferred scenario, the sanctuary would expand to 383 square miles to include 15 reefs and banks that provide habitat for recreationally and commercially important fish, as well as a home to 15 threatened or endangered species of whales, sea turtles, and corals.

map showing the proposed boundary areas in alternative 3

Alternative 3 - Preferred Alternative

NOAA's preferred option for expanding Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary would include a total of 18 nationally significant natural features within 11 discrete proposed boundary areas. View all the alternatives.

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Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Boundary Expansion: Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Proposed Expansion Fact Sheet. A description of the expansion scenarios, including boundaries and resources the areas contain, can be found at http://flowergarden.noaa.gov/
management/expansiondeis.html


Credit: NOAA

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Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Boundary Expansion: Draft Environmental Impact Statement

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Boundary Expansion: Draft Environmental Impact Statement. A description of the expansion scenarios, including boundaries and resources the areas contain, can be found at http://flowergarden.noaa.gov/
management/expansiondeis.html


Credit: NOAA

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Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Expansion Proposed Action

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Expansion Proposed Action. A description of the expansion scenarios, including boundaries and resources the areas contain, can be found at http://flowergarden.noaa.gov/
management/expansiondeis.html


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A colorful species of anemone, Telmatactis, alongside various black corals and gorgonians.

A colorful species of anemone, Telmatactis, at Horseshoe Bank alongside various black corals and gorgonians. This species is found at mesophotic depths (ranging from depths of 100 feet to over 490 feet).

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An assortment of black corals, gorgonians, soft corals, and branching corals

An assortment of black corals, gorgonians, soft corals, and branching corals are common throughout mesophotic depths in the region, including Bright Bank.

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A crinoid with delicate feathery fronds reaches out to grab plankton out of the water

A crinoid with delicate feathery fronds reaches out to grab plankton, alongside other mesophotic inhabitants – black corals, soft corals, branching corals and some anthiid fish.

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This wonderful enormous anemone, Condylactis gigantea, is rarely seen in scuba depths within the region – but are found in mesophotic depths – in other parts of parts of the Caribbean this species occurs in shallower depth ranges.

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fish swimming around colorful sponges and bright green algae

Colorful sponges and bright green algae adorn the cap of Bright Bank.

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zigzag coral

This deepwater species of branching stony coral, Madrepora carolina, or zigzag coral, is very fragile, and has been documented in the deeper, soft bottom habitats of many banks in the region.

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This wonderfully colorful gorgonian, Swiftia, can grow quite large, and has been documented throughout the mesophotic depths in the region.

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schools fish swimming among coarl, sponges and algae

Geyer Bank comes up to within scuba diving range. A diverse and colorful community of corals, sponges, algae, and vast schools of fish greet visitors to this bank.

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glass sponge

Elvers Bank is home to a very special glass sponge reef at the deeper depths of the site. Glass sponges are delicate sponges with spicules made of silica, and can grow quite large. We have not yet found a glass sponge reef anywhere else in the region.

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a species of soft coral called Anthomastus

This is a species of soft coral called Anthomastus, photographed at McGrail Bank. Behind it is a black coral. This soft coral is small and hard to see, and mostly has been observed with the tentacles retracted during regional surveys.

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fish swimming among coral, gorgonians, crinoids, sponges, and soft coral

Bank butterflyfish, roughtongue bass, and threadnose bass swim among corals, gorgonians, crinoids and sponges at McGrail Bank.

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blushing star coral shown in the foreground, along with a spiny sea urchin and a barrel sponge

A blushing star coral (Stephanocoenia intersepta) shown in the foreground, along with a spiny sea urchin (Diadema antillarum) and a barrel sponge (Xestospongia muta) at McGrail Bank.

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basalt outcrops at Alderdice Bank

Basalt outcrops at Alderdice Bank resulting from volcanic activity 77 million years ago are the oldest known exposed rock on the continental shelf off Louisiana and Texas.

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Leptogorgia gorgonian grow atop basalt spires

Dense fields of Leptogorgia gorgonian grow atop the ancient basalt spires of Alderdice Bank.

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large white gorgonian

Surveys throughout the region have revealed numerous fields of these large white gorgonian, Hypnogorgia.

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Marbled grouper

Surveys have revealed that the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico appears to be a hotspot for marbled grouper, considered rare throughout the Caribbean.

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discarded shrimp net covering a reef

A discarded shrimp net drapes corals at Stetson Bank. Removing the net would be difficult without damaging the resources.

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discarded shrimp net covering a reef

A discarded shrimp net drapes corals at Stetson Bank. Removing the net would be difficult without damaging the resources.

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school of gray snapper, creole fish, and vermillion swim over an anchor chain laying across a mesophotic reef

A school of gray snapper, creole fish and vermillion swim over an anchor chain laying across a reef at Alderdice Bank.

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Fish, includind a scamp, Spanish flag and wrasse bass, swim near a discarded longline at Horseshoe Bank.

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Discarded longline sits across a lush algae field

A red snapper swims above a discarded longline in an algae field at Parker Bank.

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Discarded longline stretches across a mesophotic reef covered in delicate branching coral at Bright Bank

Discarded longline stretches across a mesophotic reef covered in delicate branching coral at Bright Bank.

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Plastic intertwined in a delicate zigzag coral

A delicate zigzag coral (Madrepora carolina) wrapped in plastic at West Flower Garden Bank.

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B-Roll Video

Credit: NOAA

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