Due to the remote location of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, about 115 miles offshore, most people will never get a chance to see it. So how can we get people interested enough to care about preserving it? One way is to share the wonders of the sanctuary through exhibits and messaging at aquariums and zoos.
Following is an alphabetical listing of some of our zoo and aquarium partners. We encourage you to visit them!
The Aquarium at Rockport Harbor is a small, non-profit aquarium in coastal Texas with a focus on local marine habitats. The coral tank exhibit showcases fishes of the Flower Garden Banks and some messaging about the coral reefs of the sanctuary. (Image: Greg Whittaker)
Aquarium Pyramid at Moody Gardens
Aquarium Pyramid at Moody Gardens, located in Galveston, TX, is the closest aquarium to the sanctuary offices. Although the aquarium does not have a dedicated Flower Garden Banks exhibit, we have worked closely with them to include sanctuary messaging in the large, walk-through Caribbean Exhibit.
These dedicated graphics panels introduce visitors to the sanctuary and some of the threats facing it. Since sanctuary wildlife is a subset of what you will find in the greater Caribbean basin, this seemed like a natural fit.
A massive renovation of the aquarium began in August 2015 with future plans to include a Flower Garden Banks exhibit, as well as a large oil/gas platform exhibit. The sanctuary has been consulting on these upcoming changes.
Cameron Park Zoo, located in Waco, TX, is the only zoo facility that currently houses a Flower Garden Banks exhibit.
This 50,000-gallon exhibit is part of the Brazos River Country Exhibit, which opened in July 2005. It features a journey up the Brazos River from the Gulf of Mexico. Visitors to the exhibit get a chance to see the reef and part of the watershed that impacts it.
An interactive sanctuary kiosk was installed in the exhibit area in 2010 to enhance the visitor experience. We have also provided continuing education opportunities for zoo staff and visitors over the past several years.
This small aquarium, associated with the Dallas Zoo, was originally built in 1936, but was give a complete overhaul in 2009-2010. The current design includes a saltwater wing that introduces visitors to nearshore and offshore animals as well as a variety of habitats, including the Flower Garden Banks sanctuary.
Tennessee Aquarium, located in Chattanooga, TN, opened a $30 million Ocean Journey building in April 2005. The centerpiece of this expansion is an immense replica of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. (Photo: Joyce & Frank Burek)
This 618,000-gallon saltwater exhibit, the Secret Reef, gives visitors a realistic view of the huge, boulder coral formations that form the reef structure at East and West Flower Garden Banks, as well as the abundant wildlife that depend on them.
Aquarium staff worked closely with the sanctuary to ensure the accuracy of the exhibit and its accompanying information. Several of the aquarium staff also visited the sanctuary in August 2004 for an informational workshop and a first hand look. The sanctuary still participates in occasional continuing education activities with aquarium staff, volunteers, and members.
This video takes a look through just one of 33 viewing panels into the exhibit. A variety of tropical fishes, southern stingrays, and sandbar sharks swim by the window as the video progresses. (Video Length - 0:31)
Texas State Aquarium, located in Corpus Christi, TX, has had a Flower Gardens exhibit since it opened in 1990, before Flower Garden Banks even became a sanctuary! This 40,000-gallon exhibit showcases the coral reefs of the sanctuary and a variety of fishes. Guests can also enjoy daily Diver in the Water presentations.
Sanctuary staff worked with the aquarium from 2009-2011 to update the exhibit area. Videos now provide short presentations about Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, the National Marine Sanctuary System, coral reefs, coral spawning, deepwater habitats, and sharks and rays, in both English and Spanish.
In addition, exhibit graphics were replaced, new fish ID videos were installed, and new display elements were added. Upgrades to the exhibit lighting and dive equipment were also added to make the Diver in the Water presentations even more effective.