2007 Expansion Recommendation

Crinoids, black corals, and octocorals in deep habitat at Horseshoe Bank
An area between East and West Flower Garden Banks, now called Horseshoe Bank, was unknown at the time of sanctuary designation in 1992. Image: FGBNMS/UNCW-UVP

In 2007, protecting additional habitat in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico was identified as one of six priority issues for the sanctuary to address through the Management Plan Review process. In response, the Sanctuary Advisory Council formed a Boundary Expansion Working Group to discuss the issue.

Through a series of public meetings and workshops, the working group developed a final recommendation. This recommendation was presented to and approved by the council at the December 6, 2007 advisory council meeting.

2007 Sanctuary Advisory Council Boundary Expansion Recommendation 

Working Group Members:

  • Clint Moore, Chairperson, Council Oil and Gas Representative
  • Emma Hickerson, FGBNMS Research Coordinator
  • John Embesi, Council Research Representative
  • Ian MacDonald, Council Research Representative
  • James Sinclair, Council Minerals Management Service Representative
  • Steve Gittings, ONMS National Science Program Coordinator


In the years following sanctuary designation, the collection of new, high-resolution multibeam bathymetry revealed potentially vulnerable geological and biological features outside of sanctuary boundaries.

An atlas style map showing the sea floor topography around the three sanctuary banks
Map showing additional features between and adjacent to the Flower Garden Banks. Image: NOAA

Like the Flower Garden Banks, many of these reefs and banks appeared to have unique or unusual structural features, and seemed to be ecologically linked to each other. These features were also vulnerable to certain human impacts.

It was proposed that some of these features be evaluated for inclusion under the management and protection of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.


1. Develop a list of nominated sites to consider for further protection.

  • Consider expanding sanctuary boundaries around Stetson Bank to include vulnerable habitat known as the Stetson Bank Ring. This semi-continuous ring of features is structurally and biologically part of the Stetson Bank ecosystem.
  • Consider expanding sanctuary boundaries to include vulnerable habitats between and adjacent to the Flower Garden Banks that are structurally and biologically linked to the Flower Garden Banks ecosystem.
  • Assess numerous banks and reefs in the northern Gulf of Mexico which are populated by potentially vulnerable hard bank assemblages, and may be ecologically linked to each other. Consider the effectiveness of existing protections in each of these areas.

2. Develop criteria for assessment of nominated sites for sanctuary status.

Boundary Expansion Working Group Rating Criteria

3. Make recommendations for further science needed to make management decisions.

4. Make recommendations for further education/outreach products needed to address the issue.