Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Proposed Expansion

Building on more than three decades of scientific exploration and public calls for additional protections, NOAA today released a proposal to expand Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary to protect additional important Gulf of Mexico habitat.

NOAA is proposing to add 14 additional reefs and banks to the sanctuary that provide essential habitat for recreationally and commercially important fish, as well as habitats for threatened or endangered species including sea turtles, corals and manta rays. The sanctuary would expand from 56 square miles to 160 square miles.

Media Inquiries:

G.P. Schmahl, FGBNMS Superintendent
409-356-0383

Kelly Drinnen, Sanctuary Outreach Specialist
409-356-0388

fgbexpansion@noaa.gov

map showing the proposed boundary areas in alternative 3

Revised Preferred Alternative

The proposed rule for expansion would add 14 banks to Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary and increase the sanctuary size to approximately 160 square miles. A description of the proposed rule and the changes made since the 2016 DEIS can be found at flowergarden.noaa.gov/
management/expansionnpr.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 Proposed Rule Fact Sheet. A description of the proposed expansion areas and the changes from the 2016 draft environmental impact statement. A description of the proposed rule and the changes made since the 2016 DEIS can be found at  flowergarden.noaa.gov/
management/expansionnpr.html
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Credit: NOAA

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Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Expansion Proposed Action

A brief overview of the reefs and banks included in the proposed rule for expansion of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. A description of the proposed rule and the changes made since the 2016 DEIS can be found at  flowergarden.noaa.gov/
management/expansionnpr.html
.

Credit: NOAA

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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 at Horseshoe Bank and other deep reefs throughout the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.

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orange gorgonian

This bright orange gorgonian can grow quite large, and has been documented throughout the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. Here it provides habitat for a few brittle stars at Geyer Bank.

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fish swimming around colorful sponges and bright green algae

McGrail Bank features areas of unique coral reefs dominated by large colonies of blushing star coral.

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large sea anemone

This large sea anemone, seen at Rezak Bank, is rarely found at scuba depths in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, but is not uncommon on deeper reefs of the region.

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Colorful sponges and bright green algae adorn the cap of Bright Bank, which is shallow enough to scuba dive.

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 large bushy black corals

These large, bushy black corals provide great hiding places for tropical fish at Geyer Bank and other deep reef habitats throughout the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.

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large white gorgonian

Surveys throughout the northwestern Gulf of Mexico have revealed numerous fields of these large white gorgonians.

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Leptogorgia gorgonian grow atop basalt spires

Dense fields of brightly colored gorgonians and sponges grow atop the ancient basalt spires at Alderdice Bank.

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Gray snapper swim past a pinnacle covered in fire coral

Gray snapper swim past a pinnacle covered in fire coral at Sonnier Bank, a popular area for fishing and shallow enough for scuba diving

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a scamp group swimming above a reef

The highly productive marine ecosystems in the proposed expansion areas support a variety of fish and invertebrate communities of biological and economic importance, like this scamp grouper at Sidner Bank.

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large white black coral sits among a field of smaller black corals

Black corals are named for their internal skeleton color, not their external color. This large white black coral sits among a field of smaller black corals of various colors at Horseshoe Bank.

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cherubfish swimming around a reef

Shallow reef species, like this beautiful cherubfish at Parker Bank, also make use of deep reef habitats throughout the proposed expansion areas.

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discarded shrimp net covering a reef

A discarded shrimp net drapes over corals on the deep reefs surrounding Stetson Bank. Removing the net would be difficult without damaging the reef organisms.

Credit: NOAA

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