Sanctuary Investigating Recent Coral Disease
NOAA is working to determine whether an unusual coral mortality event observed in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is linked to Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD), which had not been previously reported in the sanctuary.
On a recent research cruise, divers observed brain and star corals at East and West Flower Garden Banks that appeared to show SCTLD-like symptoms, including lesions and tissue loss.
A rapid response and intervention cruise was initiated with support from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and research partners from Florida Atlantic University’s Harbor Branch Oceanographic Institute.
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 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 deadly disease from reaching our otherwise healthy reefs.
More information and disinfection protocols
2022 Sanctuary Advisory Council Meetings
The Sanctuary Advisory Council meets several times a year to discuss topics relevant to sanctuary management. Past minutes and agendas are available on our Meeting Information page.
Hybrid meeting: In-person with webinar option
Wednesday, September 14, 2022
10 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.
Location: Moody Gardens Hotel, Moody I Ballroom
Seven Hope Boulevard, Galveston, TX 77554
Webinar option: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/7800265760399603213
Computer audio recommended.
Audio Only: Call (415) 930-5321, use Audio Access Code 166-142-417
These meetings are open to the public. Those wishing to make public comments can request to speak
via the webinar’s chat/question box or sign up at the meeting location.
If you cannot attend in person, please consider following along via webinar.
Final 2022 Meeting:
Tuesday, November 15, 2022
For more information, contact Leslie.Clift@noaa.gov.
What is a Bank?
When most of us hear the word ‘bank’ we think of financial institutions and money, but banks in the ocean have a different value.
Discover what makes a bank so special, and how banks feature prominently in three different national marine sanctuaries.
Uncover the ocean treasures of Flower Garden Banks, Cordell Bank, and Stellwagen Bank national marine sanctuaries in our new story map...
Fantastic Ocean Places You Can Bank On!
Mooring Buoy Maintenance
Mooring buoys are an important part of our efforts to protect sanctuary resources while still enabling visitor access to the reefs. Anchoring is not allowed in the sanctuary, but vessels up to 100 feet in length can tie off to these surface buoys.
Due to COVID-19 related restrictions on vessel and diving operations in the past two years, the sanctuary has been unable to conduct maintenance on the mooring buoys. However, we are making buoy maintenance and replacement a priority in 2022.
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. Please plan your trips accordingly.
More Information on Buoy Coordinates
Seaside Chats 2022
Seaside Chats is an annual speaker series about ocean science and conservation, which is hosted by Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. While the sanctuary and the Gulf of Mexico are our main focus, we occasionally look at what's happening in other national marine sanctuaries, as well.
Our 2022 presentations are now available as recordings at the links below:
Sex Lives of Corals: From Spawning to Conservation
presented by Sarah Davies, Boston University
Paradise Lost? Future Fisheries in a Climate-Driven Gulf
presented by Sepp Haukebo, Environmental Defense Fund
Discovering Climate History in Coral Skeletons
presented by Kristine DeLong, Louisiana State University
How Humpback Whales Feed Hawai`i
presented by Jeannine Rossa, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whales National Marine Sanctuary
For more information about past presentations, visit our Seaside Chats page.
On January 19, 2021, NOAA issued the Final Rule for expansion of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. This action protects 14 additional reefs and banks, slightly adjusts the boundaries of the sanctuary's original three banks, and expands the sanctuary from 56 square miles to a total of 160 square miles.
The final rule applies existing sanctuary regulations to all of the new areas, providing protection from the destructive impact of activities related to fishing with bottom-tending gear, ship anchoring, oil and gas exploration and production, and salvage activities on sensitive biological resources.
These areas include critical habitat for recreationally and commercially important fish, as well as threatened or endangered species of manta rays, sea turtles, and corals in the Gulf of Mexico.
Scroll down this page to see a story map that will allow you to explore the sanctuary and its surroundings in more detail.
Sanctuary Expansion Information
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.
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 opportunities or 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!
Learn more and/or subscribe...
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary was expanded from 56 square miles to 160 square miles to protect additional critical habitat in the Gulf of Mexico on January 19, 2021. This means that the sanctuary is now made up of 17 different reefs and banks within 19 separate boundaries. You can explore the entire sanctuary and it's surroundings within the story map below.
Learn more about the sanctuary expansion