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Visiting Your Sanctuary

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Visiting Sanctuary Home    What Will I See?
Trip Preparation     Dive Charters    Fishing Charters
Weather & Data Buoys     Mooring Buoys & Boundaries
Natural Events     Reef Etiquette    Ciguatera
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INTRODUCTION

So, now you can’t wait to get there. GREAT! Here are a few things you should know before you go and some helpful links to make your trip run as smoothly as possible.

BEFORE YOU GO

Image of form used for reporting a trip to the sanctuaryDownload the Voluntary Vessel Trip Report Form. We encourage you to complete this form after your visit to the sanctuary so that we can learn more about how the sanctuary is being used and how often it is being visited. You can download this form now and take it with you, or click on the Trip Reports button on our home page to access the form when you return. The form may be mailed, faxed, or submitted by email.

Weather and sea surface conditions can be unpredictable at the Flower Garden Banks so make sure you have the most up to date weather information before you leave shore. High seas and strong currents can make for very challenging dive conditions, not to mention queasy stomachs. For these reasons, the Flower Garden Banks may not be the best place for beginning divers.

A bright yellow data buoy floating on the ocean

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GETTING TO THE BANKS

There are only two ways to get out to the Flower Garden Banks sanctuary...by Coast Guard jet or by boat. Of course, the most likely seems to be by boat.

There are several commercial dive and fishing charter operators that take people out to the sanctuary and surrounding oil and gas platforms.

A 100-foot dive vessel tied to a mooring on the sea surface.
A charter dive vessel moored in the sanctuary.

However, if you choose to head out on a private boat, you’ll need to be aware of the sanctuary boundaries, mooring buoy coordinates, sanctuary regulations and reef etiquette.

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FISHING CAUTION

On February 5, 2008 the FDA issued a letter of guidance regarding fish caught near the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. The letter warns that the following species of concern may contain ciguatera toxin, which can be harmful to humans.

Map identifying FDA advisory zones around the sanctuary for fish that might contain ciguatoxin
Click on map for a larger view

Within 10 miles of FGBNMS:

Marbled Grouper (Epinephelus inermis)
Hogfish (Lachnolaimus maximus)
Blackfin Snapper (Lutjanus buccanella)
Dog Snapper (Lutjanus jocu)
Gag Grouper (Mycteroperca microlepis)
Scamp Grouper (Mycteroperca phenax)
Yellowfin Grouper (Mycteroperca venenosa)

Within 50 miles of FGBNMS:

Yellow Jack (Caranx bartholomaei)
Horse-eye Jack (Caranx latus)
Black Jack (Caranx lugubris)
King Mackerel (Scomberomorus cavalla)
Amberjack (Seriola dumerili)
Barracuda (Sphyraena barracuda)

For more information regarding the ciguatera toxin, visit the FDA's web site.

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AFTER YOUR RETURN

Hopefully, you had a great time and saw some awesome critters! Maybe you even took a few pictures or video shots.

Did you see something unusual in the sanctuary? Did you get a good photo of markings on the ventral (belly) side of a manta ray? Did you see what appeared to be coral disease or coral bleaching? Let us know.

Belly view of a manta ray in the sanctuary

On the other hand, did you see any inappropriate behavior on the part of other sanctuary visitors? That information is important to us too.

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We encourage you to share your observations with us. The more eyes and minds we have tracking conditions in the sanctuary, the more effectively we can manage and protect this national treasure. Photo documentation of your observations is especially helpful!

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weather report observations cool stuff get wet


Sea spout stretching from a dark cloud down to the sea surface and churning up a section of water.  Looks like a very narrow tornado.
   
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