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Following is a summary of prohibited or otherwise regulated activities within all three areas of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary--East Flower Garden Bank, West Flower Garden Bank, and Stetson Bank.

Anchoring and Mooring

The following activities are prohibited:

• Anchoring any vessel within the sanctuary
• Mooring a vessel over 100 feet in registered length on a sanctuary mooring buoy

Bow of boat with line leading to mooring buoy floating on sea surface.

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Diver Safety

All moored vessels engaged in diving activities at FGBNMS must clearly exhibit the blue and white International Code flag "A" (“alpha” dive flag) or red and white "sports diver" flag when divers are in the water and remove it once all divers exit the water. (effective May 27, 2012)

This is consistent with U.S. Coast Guard guidelines for the Gulf of Mexico.

Flag that is white on the left half and blue on the right half.  A sideways V is cut out of the blue side. A red flag with a white diagonal stripe running from top left to bottom right.
Alpha Dive flag
 Divers Down flag

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Sanctuary regulations prohibit discharging or depositing any material into or from within the sanctuary, with the following exceptions:

• Fish, fish parts, chumming materials or bait while fishing with conventional hook and line gear within the sanctuary
• Clean water incidental to vessel operations and clean effluent from an operable Type I or II marine sanitation device (MSD)
• Clean water generated by routine vessel operations (e.g. cooling water, deck wash down, and bilge water) excluding oily wastes from bilge pumping
• Engine exhaust

In addition, it is required that vessel operators lock all MSDs in a manner that prevents discharge or deposit of untreated sewage.

“Clean” means not containing detectable levels of harmful matter; and “harmful matter” means any substance, or combination of substances, that because of quantity, concentration, or physical, chemical, or infectious characteristics may pose a present or potential threat to sanctuary resources or qualities, including but not limited to: fishing nets, fishing line, hooks, fuel, oil, and those contaminants (regardless of quantity) listed at 40 CFR 302.4 (§ 922.131).

These terms replace the previous use of the term "biodegradable." (changes effective 5/27/12)

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hawksbill sea turtle

Marine Mammals and Sea Turtles

Regulations prohibit taking any marine mammal or turtle within the sanctuary.

"Take or taking" includes, but is not limited to, to harass (e.g. to touch, ride, or shine bright lights into an animal's eyes), harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, collect or injure, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct. This includes, but is not limited to, the collection of any dead or injured marine mammal, sea turtle or seabird, or any part thereof, no matter how temporarily; to operate a vessel or aircraft or to do any other act that results in the disturbance or molestation of any marine mammal, sea turtle or seabird.

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silhouette of a manta ray

Rays and Whale Sharks

Regulations prohibit killing, injuring, attracting, touching, or disturbing rays or whale sharks, except for incidental catch by conventional hook and line gear. (effective 5/27/12)

"Attract or attracting" means the conduct of any activity that lures or may lure any animal in the sanctuary by using food, bait, chum, dyes, decoys (e.g. surfboards or body boards used as decoys), acoustics or any other means.  “Disturb or disturbing” a ray or whale shark means to, or attempt to, touch, handle, ride, pursue, chase away, hunt, restrain, detain (no matter how temporarily), capture, collect, or conduct any other activity that disrupts or has potential to disrupt any ray or whale shark in the sanctuary by any means. Notwithstanding the above, the mere presence of human beings (e.g. swimmers, divers, boaters, kayakers, surfers) is exempted from this definition.

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Injury to or Possession of Sanctuary Resources

The following activities are generally prohibited:

• Injuring or removing, or attempting to injure or remove, any coral or other bottom formation, coralline algae or other plant, marine invertebrate (e.g., spiny lobster, queen conch, shell, sea urchin), brine-A piece of reef rock that includes branching white corals, orange-brown sponges, and other unidentified attached organisms.seep biota or carbonate rock within the sanctuary.
• Possessing within the sanctuary (regardless of where collected, caught, harvested or removed), any carbonate rock, coral or other bottom formation, coralline algae or other plant, or fish (except for fish caught by use of conventional hook and line gear).
• Drilling into, dredging or otherwise altering the seabed of the sanctuary; or constructing, placing or abandoning any structure, material or other matter on the seabed of the sanctuary.

"Injure" means to change adversely, either in the short or long term, a chemical, biological or physical attribute of, or the viability of. This includes, but is not limited to, to cause the loss of or destroy.

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Fishing and Related Activities

The following activities are generally prohibited:

• Injuring, catching, harvesting, collecting or feeding, or attempting to injure, catch, harvest, collect or feed, any fish within the sanctuary by use of any gear, device, equipment or means (e.g. spear guns, nets) except by use of conventional hook and line gear.
• Possessing (except while passing through the sanctuary without interruption) any fishing gear, device, equipment or means except conventional hook and line gear.
• Possessing, or using explosives or releasing electrical charges within the sanctuary.

"Conventional hook and line gear" means any fishing apparatus operated aboard a vessel and composed of a single line terminated by a combination of sinkers and hooks or lures and spooled upon a reel that may be hand or electrically operated, hand-held or mounted.

Several people fishing from a boat in open water.

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Regulations Documents

Regulations, NMSP (364kb pdf) - excerpt from Code of Federal Regulations detailing regulations applicable to the National Marine Sanctuary Program; regulations specific to Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary are in Subpart L (2007)

Regulations, FGBNMS section (67kb pdf) - Updated Subpart L, outlining only regulations specific to Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (April 2012)

Regulations, Final Rule 2012 (111kb pdf) - Explanation of revisions to FGBNMS regulations in conjunction with release of 2012 Management Plan and Environmental Assessment (April 2012)

Regulations, Summary (137kb pdf) - a two page summary of sanctuary regulations, but not a comprehensive listing (2012)

Recreational Fishing Regulations for Gulf of Mexico Federal Waters

Commercial Fishing Regulations for Gulf of Mexico Federal Waters

If you need additional information about sanctuary regulations, please contact us.

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weather report observations cool stuff get wet

Small, knobby corals in foreground; boulder of brain coral in background.  Long, fingery branches of purple sponge anchored in knobby corals and standing upright.
National Marine Sanctuary logo - a stylized whale tail above waves