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INTRODUCTION

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is one of 14 federally designated underwater areas protected by NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.

Map of North American and Pacific Ocean showing locations of all sites managed by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
Map showing the location of all 14 sites protected by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries.
Click map for larger image.

It is the only sanctuary site located in the Gulf of Mexico.

Situated 70 to 115 miles off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, the Flower Garden Banks sanctuary includes underwater communities that rise from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico atop underwater mountains called salt domes.

Gulf of Mexico map showing approximate location of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. East & West Flower Garden Banks are almost directly south of Texas/Louisana border. Stetson Bank is almost directly south of Galveston, Texas.
Map of the Gulf of Mexico surrounded by the Gulf states, Mexico, and Cuba. The sanctuary location is marked by three white dots in the northwestern part of the Gulf.
Click map for larger image.

 

Atlas style map of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, zoomed in on just that part of the Gulf of Mexico where East and West Flower Garden Banks are located. An inset in upper left corner shows Stetson Bank. An inset in the lower right corner shows where the sanctuary is in relation to the Texas and Louisiana coastlines.
Atlas map of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary showing contours of the sea floor.
Click map for larger image.

The sanctuary actually protects three separate areas: East Flower Garden Bank, West Flower Garden Bank, and Stetson Bank. These banks are separated from each other by miles of open ocean ranging from 200 to 500 feet (61-152 meters) deep, and each bank has its own set of boundaries.

Bathymetric map of the sea floor at East Flower Garden Bank.  Shallowest areas are shown in red, with deeper areas progressing through orange, yellow, light blue, and dark blue as the terrain gets deeper.
EAST FLOWER GARDEN BANK
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Bathymetric map of the sea floor at West Flower Garden Bank. Shallowest areas are shown in red, with deeper areas progressing through orange, yellow, light blue, and dark blue as the terrain gets deeper.
WEST FLOWER GARDEN BANK
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Bathymetric map of the sea floor at Stetson Bank. Shallowest areas are shown in red, with deeper areas progressing through orange, yellow, light blue, and dark blue as the terrain gets deeper.
STETSON BANK
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Management of the sanctuary is accomplished through a combination of education, science, resource protection and regulatory programs.

More about the National Marine Sanctuary System (512kb pdf)

More about the Sanctuary Nomination Process (170kb pdf)

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HISTORY

The Flower Garden Banks were discovered by snapper and grouper fishermen in the late 1800's. They named the banks after the brightly colored sponges, plants, and other marine life they could see on the colorful reefs below their boats.

Red, fan-shaped coral colony sitting atop a rock covered in sponges and anemones.  The water around it is deep, dark blue because of the depth.
Deep coral habitat around the banks.

Continued interest in the biological diversity and breathtaking beauty of the reefs at East and West Flower Garden Banks led to their designation as a sanctuary under the National Marine Sanctuary Act (NMSA) (160kb pdf) in 1992. The algal-sponge communities of Stetson Bank were added to the sanctuary in 1996.

Federal Register Notice of Sanctuary Designation and Regulations, December 5, 1991, 56 FR 63634 (2.1MB pdf)

Sanctuary Fact Sheet (445kb pdf)

More about the sanctuary's history...

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NATURAL SETTING

Understanding the complexities of the sanctuary's local ecosystems requires learning about all of the components in its natural setting. This includes the underlying geology, a variety of habitats, the larger context of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem and its watersheds, as well as the specific plants and animals found within the sanctuary.

Red, fan-shaped coral colony sitting atop a rock covered in sponges and anemones. The water around it is deep, dark blue because of the depth.
Schooling fish above the coral cap.

More about the sanctuary's setting...

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weather report observations cool stuff get wet


Small, knobby corals in foreground; boulder of brain coral in background.  Long, fingery branches of purple sponge anchored in knobby corals and standing upright.
   
National Marine Sanctuary logo - a stylized whale tail above waves