Celebrating the Expansion of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary!

January 2021

Time to celebrate! Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary has been expanded from 56 to 160 square miles. The expansion adds 14 additional reefs and banks to the sanctuary, with slight adjustments to the boundaries of the sanctuary's original three banks. The new sanctuary boundary extends protections to additional essential habitats for commercially and recreationally important fish, as well as habitats for threatened and endangered species, while also minimizing potential user conflicts.


[Screen fades from black to a video of a man talking. Behind him, there is a river surrounded by trees]

Eureka. Oh yeah, there was a sense of accomplishment when the Flower Gardens was finally designated as a national marine sanctuary. Yeah.

[Video cuts to underwater shots of a coral reef with fish swimming around it. The camera focuses on a large, pink piece of coral]

Eureka. It's done.

[Video cuts back to show the man who is talking. A blue banner fades in from the lower left corner, reading
“Dr. Tom Bright
Texas A&M University, Retired
‘Father of the Flower Garden Banks’”]

Well, it wasn't ever done. It's not done yet.

[Screen fades to black, with white text reading “The Expansion of Flower Garden National Marine Sanctuary”. Below, the location is tagged as the Northwestern Gulf of Mexico]

[Video cuts back to footage of a coral reef, covered in yellow maze-like corals and surrounded by small yellow fish. The blue banner in the corner of the screen reads,
“Voice of Jesse Cancelmo
Sanctuary Advisory Council, Recreational Diving”]

My hope is that these reefs, the Flower Garden Banks as we have today, East, West, and Stetson, as well as the expanded areas, will maintain their health for generations to come.

[Camera cuts to different shots of fish and eels in a reef. A new blue banner fades in, reading “Voice of Buddy Guindon
Sanctuary Advisory Council, Commercial Fishing”
The location is tagged as Geyer Bank.]

I think in any situation where you have one of the only ones, you should take care of it.

[A manta ray swims underwater. Another blue banner fades in, reading “Voice of Jake Emmert
Sanctuary Advisory Council, Conservation”]

So maybe it's the fact that it's so remote, but it's so beautiful, and the community that it has out there, so perhaps that's part of the value-- at least for me-- is I want to protect it just like I would want to protect my own backyard back home.

[Divers swim adjacent to coral reefs, winding up spools of orange and white tape]

NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary protects some of the healthiest coral reefs in the world.

[Camera pans over corals, then shows a map of the United States. The Gulf of Mexico is magnified, and the areas of protected reefs are outlined in red]

The sanctuary is expanding its boundaries to protect 14 additional reefs and banks off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana.

This expansion builds on more than 30 years of research and reports calling for protection of these nationally significant areas.

[Groups of fish swim around a rock. In the top corner, the location is tagged as Alderdice Bank]

The expansion adds 104 square miles of critically important habitats to the only national marine sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico.

[Camera pans over different shots of coral reefs in dark, murky water. The location is tagged as Elvers Bank. Then, the video switches to show a colorful reef surrounded by aqua water and pink fish. The location is tagged as Sonnier Bank.]

These include deep coral communities, unique geological features, expansive zones of algal nodules, and countless species, including some of the icons of recreational and commercial fishing.

[Video shows a reef surrounded by dark blue water, waves rolling onto a beach, and then fishing boats docked on a pier.]

Together, these essential habitats serve as reservoirs of abundance and diversity, and engines of sustainability for the communities that rely on the Gulf for their economic livelihoods.

[A picture appears of a newspaper with an article titled, “Divers discover nature of mysterious mounds”. Black and white images of divers near reefs are shown. Video freezes on an older but color photo of a person on a boat. Text appears, reading “National Marine Sanctuaries Flower Garden Banks” accompanied by the Sanctuaries whale tail logo.]

In the 1970's and 80's, scientists and community members called for protection of East and West Flower Garden Banks and Stetson Bank, resulting in the designation of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

[Video shows a person operating a boat, an employee smiling in front of an aquarium tank, and then a person holding a book titled “Texas Coral Reefs”, before switching back to coral reef footage]

Today, we've answered the call. The expansion of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary advances NOAA's mission to conserve and manage coastal and marine ecosystems that help sustain local communities and America's economy.

[Dr. Tom Bright is showed again, then shots of colorful reefs and fish]

The coral cover at the Flower Gardens is greater now than it was when we were studying them back in the 70's and 80's. So these reefs are special because they remain healthy. That's a good sign.

[Barracudas and smaller fish swim over a reef in dull blue water, then Dr. Bright is shown again]

[Barracudas and smaller fish swim over a reef in dull blue water, then Dr. Bright is shown again]

[Colorful fish surrounded by aqua water swim around the reef, and a lobster peers out from a crevice. The location is tagged as Sonnier Bank. Another video clip is shown with the same location, showing a large school of fish swimming above a reef]

The habitats that are supported largely by both corals and algal reef builders are indeed resources that we need to protect for the benefit of all the stakeholders.

[A large white anemone on a reef moves with the water. The location is tagged as Geyer Bank. The camera cuts back to Dr. Tom Bright, then shows two yellow starfishes and a purple and white anemone at the previous location]

These terraces covered by algal nodules, which cover many of the banks to be included in the expansion, are possibly of higher diversity in terms of the numbers of species than the coral reef itself.

[Fish swim above the reef at McGrail Bank, then the Geyer Bank location is shown. An orange seahorse clings onto a reef, and then the shot switches to a moray eel with an open maw]

[A man begins talking with a blurred bookshelf in the background. A blue banner fades into the corner, which reads “G.P. Schmahl Superintendent, Flower Garden National Marine Sanctuary”]

The proposed sanctuary expansion is the culmination of years of work by a variety of people, and is supported strongly by the public and by a number of our partners that we've worked with over the years.

[On a boat at sea, a crew lowers equipment into the water. The video cuts to a bright orange reef surrounded by a school of silver fish, and the location is tagged as Sonnier Bank. A fish with long, spotted iridescent fins swims along the bottom]

Expansion of the sanctuary will add to the ability to protect important areas, to provide for the resilience of communities, and to sustain important economies in the Gulf of Mexico that are dependent on the health of these natural resources.

[A spiky purple cluster sits atop a reef, and the location tagged is McGrail Bank. The shot switches to show a wavy moray eel against a reef at the same location, then a shot of waves rolling into a beach with a boardwalk in the background. Clips of boats docked at a pier are shown, then a video of shrimp getting poured out of a bucket. A fisherman spools line onto his reel]

I've been told it's one of the most pristine environments in the world.

[The fisherman is then shown inside, wearing a baseball cap and a tee shirt. The blue banner that fades into the corner of the page reads, “Buddy Guindon Sanctuary Advisory Council Commercial Fishing Representative”]

When these scientists tell me that, I believe them.

[A woman sits indoors in front of a bookcase. The blue banner in the corner reads,
“Dr. Ruth Perry
Sanctuary Advisory Council
Oil & Gas Production Representative”. Video clips play of scientific equipment interacting with reefs]

The reason why it's so critical that we get this expansion and we increase these banks, is because the science has shown that these banks are unique and they're a critical part of the ecosystem.

[A man sits indoors with maps, diving equipment, and a book in the background. The blue banner in the corner of the page reads,
“Jesse Cancelmo
Sanctuary Advisory Council
Recreational Diving Representative”]

There is evidence that shows that protecting these additional areas deserve merit.

[A group of yellow fish swim above a reef, surrounded by dark water. The location is tagged as Alderdice Bank. Then, a fisherman stands on a docked vessel and begins to speak. His blue banner reads
“Scott Hickman
Sanctuary Advisory Council
Recreational Fishing Representative”]

These resources belong to all Americans. Not just the people that live on the Texas coast or the Florida coast.

[A cephalopod sits on pebbles, and the location is tagged as Geyer Bank]

The sanctuaries belong to all Americans, and they need to go see these places. They're quite amazing.

[A group of shrimp with long antennae cluster together, and the location is tagged as Geyer Bank. Then, a feathery anemone is shown at Elvers Bank]

[The camera shows a man indoors, wearing glasses and a blue company shirt. He begins to speak. The blue banner in the corner of the screen reads,
“Clint Moore
Sanctuary Advisory Council
Oil & Gas Production Representative”]

I believe in the mission and believe in protecting the resources for generation to come, and what I'm hoping is this boundary expansion is going to cause millions of other people, both children and adults, to learn about these wonders and treasures of the offshore Gulf of Mexico that have been there, but are just big secrets.

[A lumpy, spotted fish sits above the sand at Alderdice Bank. At the same location, an oyster toadfish peers out of a crevice. Long, branch-like anemones move with the current. The camera returns to show Clint Moore as he finishes speaking]

And they're our secrets, but they're not going to be anymore because we're gonna bring it to the public.

[Camera switches to show G.P. Schmahl, who begins to talk. Clips of fish, anemones, and a crab at Elvers Bay are shown. At Geyer Bank, a long, spiny starfish comes into view, followed by a group of small pink fish swimming amongst the coral.]

The more we found out about these areas, the more we realize that these were not just important marine habitats, but some of these areas are as diverse and as productive as any marine communities in the world.

[Yellow coral sits atop a reef at McGrail Bank, and a large fish swims alongside the reef at Alderdice Bank.

This is your Gulf of Mexico. We look forward to continuing to work with our community partners to ensure a productive and resilient Gulf of Mexico for years to come.

[Screen fades to black. White text appears, reading “For more information, visit flowergarden.noaa.gov”.]

[An image appears of a man with glasses in a blue company shirt, holding a wooden gavel. Text appears, reading
“In memory of Clint Moore
1956- 2019]

[Screen fades to black again, and then text and logos appear. The text reads “Presented by:” and is followed by the logos of NOAA and the National Marine Sanctuaries. Below that, text reads, “sanctuaries.noaa.gov”. In small font at the bottom, credits are listed:
Narrator: Steve Gittings/ NOAA
Producer: Kate Thompson/ NOAA
Director: Nick Zachar/ NOAA
ROV Footage: Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, UNCW-Undersea Vehicle Program
Editor: Nick Zachar/ NOAA