McGrail Bank

Color bathymetric map of McGrail Bank
McGrail Bank lies to the east of Rankin and 28 Fathom Banks and is part of the same HAPC

Bottom Depth Range: 145-490 feet (44-149 meters)

McGrail Bank (formerly known as 18 Fathom Bank) is located approximately 46 km (30 mi) east northeast of Geyer Bank and 97 km (60 mi) east northeast of East Flower Garden Bank. It consists of a pair of ridges separated by a valley and covers an area of approximately 28 km2 (17 mi2).

McGrail Bank has the shallowest crest of any of the shelf-edge banks west of the Mississippi delta, excluding the Flower Garden Banks. The top of the bank lies 45 m (145 ft) under water and features areas of coral reefs dominated by large colonies of the blushing star coral, Stephanocoenia intersepta. This is unique in the sense that no other coral reef is known to be dominated by this species. Other reef-building corals are also present, but in smaller numbers.

Small colonies of blushing star coral surround a pink sponge and a long-spined urchin
Blushing star coral (foreground, far left, and far right) is the dominant coral species at McGrail Bank

Deeper reef habitat includes extensive coralline algae and deep coral assemblages. McGrail Bank is designated as a Habitat Area of Particular Concern (HAPC), which protects the bottom habitat from fish traps and anchoring.

McGrail Bank was named after David W. McGrail, an oceanographer with Texas A&M University and the U.S. Coast Guard.

Tropical reef fish swim among a variety of black corals and gorgnians scattered across a section of deep reef
Bank Butterflyfish and Roughtongue Bass swim through a variety of black corals and gorgonians at McGrail Bank
A stark white gorgonian bush anchored to the sea floor near a white corkscrew coral.
A large gorgonian colony in the mesophotic habitat at McGrail Bank

A video of McGrail Bank taken during ROV (remotely operated vehicle) and manned submersible explorations is available on our Northwest Banks Videos page.