Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is one of 15 national marine sanctuaries and two marine national monuments protected by NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. It is the only sanctuary site located in the Gulf of Mexico.
Situated 80 to 125 miles off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, the Flower Garden Banks sanctuary includes thriving shallow water coral reefs, algal-sponge communities, and deeper mesophotic reefs full of black coral, octocoral, and algal nodule habitats.
The sanctuary protects portions of 17 separate reefs and banks in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. These banks are a combination of small underwater mountains, ridges, troughs, and hard bottom patches along the continental shelf, created by underlying salt domes. Together, they create a chain of protected habitats for ecologically and economically important species across the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.
When first designated in 1992, the sanctuary consisted of only East and West Flower Garden Banks, home to some of the healthiest coral reefs in the world. Stetson Bank was added to the sanctuary in 1996. In 2021, portions of 14 more banks were added to the sanctuary. These include Horseshoe Bank, MacNeil, Rankin, 28 Fathom, Bright, Geyer, Elvers, McGrail, Bouma, Sonnier, Rezak, Sidner, Parker, and Alderdice Banks.
From fishing to scientific discovery, explore Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary's journey to designation and beyond.
Check out the details about each of the sanctuary's 17 banks, including boundaries, size, depth, habitats, and how they were named.
Discover how the sanctuary fits into the larger Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, including the currents, watershed, and geology of the area.
While the sanctuary is best known for its coral reefs, the majority of sanctuary habitats lie in an area known as the mesophotic or "twilight" zone.
These lists include the species found on or above the reef caps of the sanctuary, and provide some images to help with identification.
Find answers to some of the most frequently asked questions (FAQs) about Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.
Learn how a gas platform ended up inside sanctuary boundaries at East Flower Garden Bank, and what it's doing now.
Meet the small but mighty staff that are working to teach about, manage, monitor, and protect the sanctuary.
Meet the NOAA Corps officers who have served at the sanctuary to help with vessel operations, facility maintenance, and more.