2023 Get Into Your Sanctuary Photo Contest
May 26, 2023 through September 4, 2023
Sanctuary Advisory Council Meeting
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.
In-person with webinar option
Date/time changed to: Thursday, May 25, 2023
10 a.m. to 1 p.m.
In-person: NOAA Galveston Lab Conference Room
4700 Avenue U, Building 305, Galveston, TX 77551
Webinar Registration: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/8722629581095391063
Computer audio recommended.
Audio Only: Call (631) 992-3221, use Audio Access Code 337-718-012
This meeting is open to the public and will include a scheduled public comment period. Those wishing to make public comments can sign up at the meeting location or request to speak via the webinar’s chat/question box. Public comments are limited to 3 minutes per person.
For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Seaside Chats is an annual speaker series about ocean science and conservation, hosted by Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. All presentations are offered via webinar.
February 1, 6:30-7:30 p.m. (CT)
The Best Job Ever! - Steve Gittings, Office of National Marine Sanctuaries
February 8, 6:30-7:30 p.m. (CT)
Reconstructing the Flower Garden Banks from the Inside Out - Bill Precht, Dial Cordy and Associates, Inc.
February 15, 6:30-7:30 p.m. (CT)
Exploring a Future Sanctuary - Tom Bright, retired, Texas Sea Grant
February 22, 6:30-7:30 p.m. (CT)
Coral Forensics in the Deep Flower Garden Banks - Luke McCartin, Lehigh University
For more information and webinar registration links, please visit our Seaside Chats page.
FY22 Research Report
A report summarizing the activities of the sanctuary's Research, Monitoring, and Resource Protection team during fiscal year 2022 (October 1, 2021-September 30, 2022) is now available.
Fifteen cruises were completed throughout the course of the year, with research cruises once again able to operate at full capacity. Research efforts were primarily focused on supporting the mesophotic and deep benthic communities (MDBC) project, reef monitoring, and data analysis.
A pool of almost 30 divers conducted 468 scuba dives focused on mooring buoy inspections and installations, collection of long-term monitoring data, and coral disease response. Eight sanctuary permits were processed and 11 additional permits were ongoing.
2022 Accomplishments Report
At the end of each fiscal year (October 1-September 30), the sanctuary compiles a two-page report summarizing three or four major accomplishments, as well as expectations for the coming year.
Highlights from 2022 included the sanctuary's Cheers to 30 Years celebrations, a return to long-term monitoring activities, and the beginning of a new ecosystem connectivity project. Of course, we accomplished more than that, but there's only so much we can say in two pages.
You can read the details and find out what we hope to accomplish in 2023 here: 2022 FGBNMS Accomplishments Report
You can also learn more about accomplishments across the National Marine Sanctuary System in A Year of Advancing Research and Engagement Efforts in National Marine Sanctuaries.
A Manta For Maite
In May 2022, a senseless tragedy occurred in Uvalde, Texas that claimed the lives of 19 students and 2 teachers. One of those students was an aspiring marine biologist.
Since kindergarten, Maite Yuleana Rodriguez wanted to become a marine biologist, never wavering from her path. At age 10, she dreamed of one day attending Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi to be near the ocean where she could "study animals on land and water."
In an effort to keep her story and her memory alive, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary has decided to name one of the sanctuary's manta rays in her memory.
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
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 pandemic restrictions on vessel and diving operations in 2020 and 2021, the sanctuary was unable to conduct maintenance on the mooring buoys. As a result, several buoys went missing or were in bad shape. Buoy maintenance has been a priority for us since 2022 and we are working to replace missing or damaged buoys as quickly as our schedule will allow. Occasionally new moorings must be drilled, which takes significantly more time than swapping out damaged or fouled gear, so please bear with us.
PLEASE NOTE: Buoys will periodically be lost 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 Buoys and their Coordinates
Harmonizing Federal Agency Regulations
On February 14, 2023, NOAA issued the Final Rule for Harmonizing Federal Agency Regulations in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. This action finalizes a technical fix for a regulatory provision that will better reflect current practices when working with partner agencies to resolve or avoid conflicting administrative law. The rule will take effect in 30 days.
Federal Register Notice
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