Geyer Bank

Bathymetric map of Geyer Bank showing the sanctuary boundary, as well as other relevant management zones and infrastructure. line
Geyer Bank is a pear-shaped feature with two distinct domes. Credit: FGBNMS

Depth Range: 105-722 feet (32-220 meters)

Distance from Land: 125 miles (201 km)

Area: 11.5 square miles (29.8 sq km)

Geyer Bank is pear-shaped with two distinct domes and sits atop an active salt diaper on the upper continental slope. It supports a coral community, as well as mesophotic coral habitats including black corals, octocorals, fish, sponges, algae and invertebrates.

Geyer Bank was named after Richard A. Geyer, a Texas A&M University geophysicist.

A variety of colorful tropical fishes swim around a section of reef covered in orange fire coral
The crest of Geyer Bank is home to a variety of corals, sponges and tropical fish species. Photo: FGBNMS/UNCW-UVP

Diver surveys have documented a sargassum bloom on the reef crest, as well as enormous numbers of reef butterflyfish (Chaetodon sedentarius) at certain times of year.

A forest of leafy algae covers most of the bottom in a section of reef. A pair of butterflyfish swim in a small gap in the algae.
Two reef butterflyfish swim near a sargassum bloom at Geyer Bank. Photo: FGBNMS/Eckert

The coral community on the reef crest is made up of at least four species of reef-building coral, as well as an invasive species, Tubastraea coccinea. Sanctuary research staff conducted a Tubastraea removal exercise with NASA divers in 2006, and removed 46 colonies of the invasive coral.

An angelfish and a squirrelfish swim past a rocky outcropping covered in clusters of invasive orange cup coral
Invasive orange cup coral is quite visible on outcroppings at Geyer Bank. Photo: FGBNMS/Schmahl

Geyer Bank is also thought to be the first known spawning site for aggregations of marbled grouper (Dermatolepis inermis), a rare species. This aggregation may be under considerable threat from fishing pressure.

In addition, a shipping lane cuts across the top of the bank. Unfortunately, this makes it a convenient place to drop anchor, impacting the resources. A large tanker anchored on top of the feature in 2011, just outside of the shipping lane.

Geyer Bank is a designated Habitat Area of Particular Concern (HAPC), a type of Essential Fish Habitat.

Red brittle stars intertwined among the branches of a bright orange gorgonian.
Brittle stars are sometimes seen intertwined with colorful octocorals in deep habitat at Geyer Bank. Photo: FGBNMS/UNCW-UVP

Who Was Richard Geyer?

Dick Geyer (1915-2002) was a geophysicist at Texas A&M. As head of the university's Department of Oceanography from 1966-1980, he was known as the "grandfather of oceanography." While there, he served as series editor for the Texas A&M Oceanographic Studies series, which included Contributions on the Biology of the Gulf of Mexico.