Mooring Buoy Maintenance
Mooring buoys are an important part of our efforts to protect sanctuary resources while still enabling visitor access to the reefs. Vessels up to 100 feet in length can tie off to these surface buoys. Anchoring is not allowed in the sanctuary.
As a result of COVID-19 related restrictions on vessel and diving operations, the sanctuary is unable to conduct maintenance on the mooring buoys. However, we have an agreement with a local dive company to replace some of the buoys, when they are able.
PLEASE NOTE: Buoys periodically will be lost due to lack of maintenance, or as the result of improper vessel usage or severe storms, so they may not all be there when you are. As of July 15, 2020, we've been told that there is only one buoy present at Stetson Bank. Please plan your visit accordingly.
Once normal on-water activities are restored, we will resume buoy maintenance as soon as possible.
More Information on Buoy Coordinates
Get Into Your Sanctuary
Our Get Into Your Sanctuary event this year is about invasive lionfish and what you can do--from your kitchen--to help us manage them.
Lionfish: From Reef Raiders to Tasty Treats
Friday, July 31, 2020
3 p.m. (Central Time)
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is partnering with The Kitchen Chick in Galveston, TX to help you Get Into Your Sanctuary in a mouthwatering way. Join us on the sanctuary Facebook page for a live event to learn about invasive lionfish and why we are removing them from the sanctuary’s coral reefs. Then, discover what a tasty treat they can be so you can help Eat ‘Em to Beat ‘Em!
We’ll provide a list of ingredients ahead of time so that you can cook along with Head Chick, Alicia Cahill, during the program, or try your hand afterward.
2020 Sanctuary Advisory Council Meetings
The Sanctuary Advisory Council meets at least four times a year to discuss topics relevant to sanctuary management. Past minutes and agendas are available on our Meeting Information page.
Thursday, July 30, 2020, 5:30-7:30 p.m.
Register for Webinar
This is a virtual public meeting of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) Advisory Council. We will provide a presentation overview of the public comments received during the public comment period for NOAA's Proposed Rulemaking for Sanctuary Expansion. This meeting will not be recorded.
Comments submitted through this meeting will be considered part of the administrative record for FGBNMS Advisory Council meetings, but will not be included in the record for the expansion proposal. The public comment period for the expansion proposal ended on July 3, 2020. Public comments will be limited to three (3) minutes per person. Please direct any questions about this meeting to Leslie.Clift@noaa.gov.
Thursday, September 10, 2020
Wednesday, November 18, 2020
Virtual Dive Gallery
Can’t get to your national marine sanctuaries? Thanks to the wonders of 360-degree photography, videography, and virtual reality, these underwater treasures are now just a few mouse clicks away.
NOAA’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS) has launched a virtual dive gallery, complete with immersive 360-degree images of eight national marine sanctuaries including the Flower Garden Banks.
In celebration of World Ocean Day 2020, ONMS has now launched virtual reality voyages using 360-degree videos! Whether you live on a coast or in a community far from the shore, we invite you to experience the power and beauty of America’s underwater treasures.
Along with these videos, lesson plans have been developed for educators to further engage middle school students with the virtual dive experience. These lessons take you deeper into each video and align with leading science standards and ocean literacy principles.
Divers! Please Help Prevent the Spread of Coral Disease to FGBNMS
Florida’s coral reefs are currently experiencing a multi-year outbreak of a stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) that has now spread over 200 miles across the Florida reef tract, and possibly to several Caribbean locations.
The disease appears to be caused by bacteria, and may be transmitted to other corals through direct contact and water circulation, meaning that divers and their gear may potentially spread this disease between sites.
As a result, we are asking divers to make sure they properly disinfect their dive gear before visiting Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, in the hopes of preventing this coral disease from reaching our otherwise healthy reefs.
More information and disinfection protocols
Routine Monitoring Sheds Light on Long-Term Conditions
NOAA scientists plunge over the deck of Research Vessel Manta and in pairs descend the clear, blue water of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Floating above the underwater salt domes that rise from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico, the divers survey the conditions and perform critical monitoring of the reefs below. This quarterly sampling trip adds valuable information to the decades-old datasets that shape our understanding of this marine oasis.
50 Years of Science, Service, and Stewardship
Throughout 2020, NOAA is celebrating 50 years of science, service, and stewardship. Since its inception on October 3, 1970, NOAA has become one the world’s premier science agencies that protects life and property, leads stewardship of the ocean and Great Lakes, and drives the blue economy — a mission that spans from the surface of the sun to the floor of the ocean. You can find more information about NOAA's 50th anniversary at https://www.noaa.gov/50-years
In 2022, our National Marine Sanctuary System will also be 50. Stay tuned for more on this!
No "Smoking Gun" in 2016 Coral Mortality Event
Although the reefs of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) are normally considered the healthiest in the region, on July 25, 2016, sport divers on the M/V FLING, reported green, hazy water, huge patches of ugly white mats on corals and sponges, and dead animals littering the bottom at East Flower Garden Bank, buoy #4. Sanctuary staff quickly alerted scientists from around the world.
The scientific community mobilized, conducting surveys on the mortality site a week later and the following year. In February 2018, the sanctuary partnered with the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System (GCOOS) and the U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) to bring together 40 researchers from different disciplines to discuss possible causes of the mortality event. A new report summarizes their findings.
Coral Mortality Symposium Summary
HI-A-389A Platform Partial Removal Completed
HI-A-389A, a gas production platform located within sanctuary boundaries at East Flower Garden Bank, is no longer visible above the water's surface. Since ceasing production a number of years ago, it was slated for removal. However, based on public opinion, it was decided to leave a portion of the structure in place for fishing and diving.
As of July 25, 2018, the top portion of the structure was removed down to 65 feet below the water's surface. The photo above shows the almost 600-foot long, heavy lift, dynamic positioning vessel NOR GOLIATH lifting the final portion of the upper structure from the water. The lower portion, from 65 to 410 feet, will remain in place as an artificial reef under the Texas Parks and Wildlife Rigs to Reefs program.
The document package below includes background material for this partial removal and the Environmental Assessments pertaining to the development of an artificial reef within the sanctuary. For further information or questions, please contact Emma.Hickerson@noaa.gov
Download Document Package
Would you like to receive regular updates about sanctuary news and events? Want to learn more about diving and fishing issues in the Gulf of Mexico? Or perhaps you'd like to know more about volunteer or research opportunities? Maybe education resources?
We have 5 different email lists designed to keep people informed on these sanctuary-related topics. All you have to do is sign up!
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PROPOSED Sanctuary Expansion
Building on more than 30 years of scientific studies, NOAA is issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking to expand Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. The proposal would expand the sanctuary from 56 square miles to 160 square miles to protect additional critical habitat in the Gulf of Mexico. This map shows the revised preferred alternative for expansion as explained in the notice of proposed rulemaking.