Elvers Bank

Bathymetric map of Elvers Bank showing two separate sanctuary boundary lines, as well as other relevant management zones and infrastructure.
Elvers Bank sits at the edge of the continental shelf. Two separate sections of Elvers Bank are part of the sanctuary. Credit: FGBNMS

Depth Range: 217-682 feet (66-208 meters)

Distance from Land: 121 miles (195 km)

Area: 4.6 square miles (11.9 sq km)

Elvers Bank sits at the very edge of the continental shelf and harbors a variety of habitats. It was named after Douglas J. Elvers, a geophysicist for the Minerals Management Service (now BOEM).

This site includes mesophotic habitat dominated by black corals, octocorals, fish, sponges, algae, and invertebrates.

A flat, oval creature with ruffled edges sitting on the mud bottom. Body color is white with brown blotches.
A large (~6 in or 15 cm) unidentified nudibranch was encountered during explorations at Elvers Bank. Photo: FGBNMS/UNCW-UVP

It also includes an algal nodule field dominated by a small orange/red sponge, which provides habitat for at least one dwarf frogfish – a species rarely seen in this part of the Gulf of Mexico.

An algal nodule field with large brown leafy algae and a bright orange sponge
Bright orange/red sponges tend to dominate the algal nodule habitats at Elvers Bank. Photo: FGBNMS/UNCW-UVP

Interesting fields of sea pens and yellow stalked crinoids have been documented here, as well as outcroppings covered in glass sponges, which are rare throughout the region.

Delicate looking white, vase-shaped sponges attached to hard substrate
Glass sponges are plentiful at Elvers Bank, although rare in other parts of the region. Photo: FGBNMS/UNCW-UVP

In 2020, a black coral specimen that was collected from Elvers Bank in 2017 was confirmed as a new species. Although the specimen was collected outside of what is now the sanctuary boundary at Elvers Bank, it's likely that additional specimens of this coral will also be found inside sanctuary boundaries.

A light green coral that looks like a cluster of pine tree branches
A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) captured close-up images and collected specimens of the newly discovered black coral Distichopathes hickersonae in 2017. Photo: FGBNMS/UNCW-UVP

Who is Douglas Elvers?

Douglas J. Elvers was involved in the mapping of coastal resources for the Bureau of Land Management/Minerals Management Service (now BOEM) in the 1970s. Elvers Peak in Antarctica is also named for him, as a result of surveying work he did there for the U.S. Geodetic Survey in 1966.