Get Into Your Sanctuary

Get Into Your Sanctuary logo alongside a spiny lobster walking across the reef
A spiny lobster leads the way into Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. (Image: G.P. Schmahl/FGBNMS)

Every year NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries hosts a Get into Your Sanctuary celebration to raise awareness about the value of our national marine sanctuaries as iconic destinations for responsible recreation. This includes events hosted by each and every site in the National Marine Sanctuary System over the course of a single long weekend.

For 2020, we're taking these celebrations online, July 31-August 2, 2020, so you will have the opportunity to visit as many sites as you'd like, not just the national marine sanctuary nearest you.

But wait, there's more!

  • Follow us on Facebook and Twitter all summer to learn about a different national marine sanctuary each week.
  • Tell us about your favorite activities in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary using #ILoveMySanctuary!
  • Show off your own adventures in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary by entering the national photo contest. This year we've added a new category, Sanctuaries at Home, so no excuses not to participate!

All summer long we'll be celebrating ways to get into your sanctuaries.

2020 FGBNMS Event

Get Into Your Sanctuary logo overlayed on an image of a lionfish with fins flared
Invasive lionfish are threatening coral reefs across the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico. (Image: G.P. Schmahl/FGBNMS)

Our Get Into Your Sanctuary event this year was about invasive lionfish and what you can do--from your kitchen--to help us manage them.

Lionfish: From Reef Raiders to Tasty Treats

Friday, July 31, 2020
3 p.m. (Central Time)

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary partnered with The Kitchen Chick in Galveston, TX to help you Get Into Your Sanctuary in a mouthwatering way. Over 75 people joined us on Facebook for a live event to learn about invasive lionfish and why we are removing them from the sanctuary’s coral reefs. Then, we showed them what a tasty treat they can be, by cooking up the recipe below.

So, do what you can, and help Eat ‘Em to Beat ‘Em!

If you can’t get lionfish, that’s okay. Other flaky, white fish will work too. Some sustainable seafood alternatives include vermilion snapper and golden tilefish.

You can still watch the program video on the sanctuary Facebook page, any time.

Get Into Your Sanctuary logo overlayed on an image of Alicia and Michelle presenting a program in front of sanctuary banners

Lionfish Veracruz Recipe:
(from The Lionfish Cookbook created by Reef Environmental Education Foundation (REEF))

1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup diced onions
2 garlic cloves
1 can diced tomatoes
1/4 cup green olives, halved
2 tablespoons capers
1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
8 lionfish (or similar fish) fillets
2 teaspoons butter

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Sauté onions until tender – about 3 minutes. Add garlic and sauté 15 seconds. Add tomatoes, olives, and capers. Bring to a boil and reduce heat. Add oregano and simmer for 5 minutes.

Sprinkle lionfish with salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Melt butter with 2 tablespoons olive oil in a separate pan over medium high heat. Add lionfish and cook 2 minutes on each side. Transfer lionfish to plates.

Serve sauce on top of fish.

Download a copy of the recipe

For more informatioin, visit or email

Past GIYS Events

Here are a few highlights from past GIYS events:

A military veteran flyfishing in the sanctuary

Vet Into Your Sanctuary
August 4, 2019

A team of four boats from the Galveston Professional Boatman's Association and volunteers from Project Healing Waters Fly Fishing volunteered their time to take military veterans for a day of fishing in and around Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary on Sunday, August 4, 2019. This was part of the nationally coordinated “Vet Into Your Sanctuary” event hosted by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and funded by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation with support from Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

Three men fishing from a boat

Anglers caught a plethora of species on fly rods, including greater amberjack, cobia, strawberry grouper, mangrove snapper, barracuda, and king mackerel. Many of the vets used fly rods and flies they had created themselves.

Boats lined up at the docks behind Sea Star Base Galveston

Get Into Your Sanctuary
May 20, 2018

at Lasker Park Pool in Galveston

On May 20, 2018, Get Into Your Sanctuary Day was held at Lasker Park Pool giving us the opportunity to interact with people who already love being in the water. We set up display and activity tables near the pool where guests could learn about the sanctuary, scuba diving, fishing, sea turtles, and making reusable bags out of t-shirts.

Boats lined up at the docks behind Sea Star Base Galveston

The most popular activity involved identifying and counting laminated fish cutouts that were submerged in the shallow end of the small pool. Kids could dive down and try to identify the fish after viewing a basic fish id board set up nearby.

A boy wearing virtual reality goggles to view the sanctuary as a volunteer stands by to assist.

Get Into Your Sanctuary
August 12, 2017

at Moody Gardens Aquarium

On August 12, 2017 the Aquarium at Moody Gardens hosted Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary for Get Into Your Sanctuary Day once again. This time, our goal was to give everyone a 3D visit to the sanctuary. Virtual Reality goggles allowed visitors to 'see' the sanctuary up close and personal via several different photo sets they could access on their mobile phones.

A woman from Moody Gardens helping a young boy try on a full face dive mask as two women watch nearby.

In addition, Moody Gardens hosted an exhibit of dive gear used in the aquarium and in the sanctuary when their staff helps out with sanctuary research needs. Guests also had the opportunity to visit the aquarium's new Flower Garden Banks aquarium display. Volunteers and staff talked to more than 400 visitors during the event.

A dive club volunteer posing with a small child wearing his scuba gear and a paper dive mask

Get Into Your Sanctuary
June 25, 2016

at Sea Center Texas

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary celebrated it’s second annual Get Into Your Sanctuary Day at Sea Center Texas in Lake Jackson, TX on Saturday, June 25th. About 500 visitors to this Texas Parks & Wildlife facility were treated to a fish scavenger hunt through the aquarium to locate species also found in the sanctuary; scuba gear demonstrations provided by local dive clubs; ocean conservation messages about marine debris and the need to reduce plastics; the sanctuary's Reef on the Road traveling exhibit on display at the aquarium; and, presentations about sanctuary expansion.

A father and child learning about marie debris at a sanctuary display table giving away reusable shopping bags.

Visitors also received a sanctuary themed reusable shopping bag to encourage more eco-friendly shopping practices.

A group of girls in Brownie uniforms wearing paper scuba masks and standing in front of a coral reef mural

Get Into Your Sanctuary
June 27, 2015

at Moody Gardens Aquarium

Since it's not easy to "Get Into" Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, we hosted our first Get Into Your Sanctuary event in the Aquarium at Moody Gardens, where we invited guests to pose in front of a sanctuary mural and interact with the sanctuary's Reef on the Road traveling exhibit.

A woman and a man releasing a sea turtle into the ocean from the back platform of a boat

The same day we took some local guests and volunteers out for a quick trip offshore on R/V MANTA to release some rehabilitated Kemp's Ridley Sea Turtles for NOAA Fisheries. (All sea turtle activities were conducted under appropriate permits.)