SANCTUARY EXPANSION RECOMMENDATION
The following information is provided as background to understand how the Sanctuary Advisory Council arrived at its recommendations for sanctuary expansion.
Much of this information is also incorporated into the Sanctuary Expansion Action Plan of the Final Management Plan released April 12, 2012.
Expansion as a Priority:
In 2007, "Protecting additional habitat in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico" was identified as one of six priority issues to be addressed through our Management Plan Review.
In response, the Sanctuary Advisory Council formed a working group to address this issue. Through a series of public meetings and workshops, the working group developed their final recommendations on management activities and strategies to be considered by the full council and the sanctuary superintendent.
Working Group Members:
- Clint Moore, Chairperson, Council Oil and Gas Representative
- Emma Hickerson, FGBNMS Research Coordinator
- John Embesi, Council Research Representative
- Ian MacDonald, Council Research Representative
- James Sinclair, Council Minerals Management Service Representative
- Steve Gittings, ONMS National Science Program Coordinator
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Since the sanctuary was designated in 1992, the collection of high-resolution multibeam bathymetry has revealed potentially vulnerable geological and biological features outside of current sanctuary boundaries.
In addition, many banks and associated topographic features in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, like the Flower Garden Banks, have unique or unusual structural features, and may be ecologically linked to each other. These features may be highly vulnerable to certain human impacts that alter the physical, chemical, biological, or acoustic environment.
It is proposed that some of these features be evaluated for inclusion under the management and protection of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.
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- Develop a list of nominated sites to consider for further protection.
- Consider expanding sanctuary boundaries around Stetson Bank to include vulnerable habitat known as the Stetson Bank Ring. This semi-continuous ring of features is structurally and biologically part of the Stetson Bank ecosystem.
- Consider expanding sanctuary boundaries to include vulnerable habitats between and adjacent to the Flower Garden Banks that are structurally and biologically linked to the Flower Garden Banks ecosystem, including an area now called Horseshoe Bank.
- Numerous banks and associated topographic features in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico are populated by potentially vulnerable hard bank assemblages, and may be ecologically linked to each other. These should be assessed for effectiveness of current protection, and evaluated for inclusion under the management and protection of FGBNMS.
- Develop criteria for assessment of nominated sites for sanctuary status.
- Make recommendations for further science needed to make management decisions, including interpretive materials.
- Make recommendations for further educational products needed to address issue.
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Comments about sanctuary expansion may be submitted by either of the following methods:
Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Submit electronic comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal with Docket Number NOAA-NOS-2014-0154
Mail: George Schmahl, Sanctuary Superintendent, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, 4700 Avenue U, Bldg 216, Galveston TX 77551
The deadline for official comments on sanctuary expansion is Monday, April 6, 2015.
Questions? Email email@example.com
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