Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary: A Rapid Assessment of Coral, Fish, and Algae Using the AGRRA Protocol

Christy Pattengill-Semmens1, Stephen R. Gittings2, and Thomas Shyka2
1Reef Environmental Education Foundation and NOAA/National Marine Sanctuary Program
2NOAA/National Marine Sanctuary Program

Conservation
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary: A Rapid Assessment of Coral, Fish, and Algae Using the AGRRA Protocol (pdf, 188K)
The Flower Garden Banks are topographic features on the edge of the continental shelf in the northwest Gulf of Mexico. These banks are approximately 175 km southeast of Galveston, Texas at 28o north latitude and support the northernmost coral reefs on the North American continental shelf. The East and West Flower Garden Banks and Stetson Bank, a smaller sandstone bank approximately 110 km offshore, are managed and protected as the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. As part of a region-wide initiative to assess coral reef condition, the benthic and fish communities of the EFG and WFG were assessed using the Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) protocol. The AGRRA survey was conducted during a week-long cruise in August 1999 that was jointly sponsored by the FGBNMS and the Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF). A total of 25 coral transects, 132 algal quadrats, 24 fish transects, and 26 Roving Diver (REEF) surveys were conducted. These surveys revealed reefs with high coral cover, dominated by large, healthy corals, little macroalgae, and healthy fish populations. The percent live coral cover was 53.9 and 48.8 at the WFG and EFG, respectively, and the average colony diameter was 93 and 81 cm. Fish diversity was lower than most Caribbean reefs, but large abundances and size of many species reflected the low fishing pressure on the banks. The benthic and fish assemblages at the EFG and WFG were similar. Due to its near pristine conditions, the FGB data will prove to be a valuable component in the AGRRA database and its resulting scale of reef condition for the region.

Keywords: Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) Protocol, coral reef, reef health, reef fish, monitoring

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