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About Your Sanctuary
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Management Plan Review     2012 Management Plan
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The Resource Protection and Visitor Use Action Plans in the 2012 Management Plan included several strategies that required changes to sanctuary regulations.  NOAA, therefore, revised FGBNMS regulations to improve user safety, protect sanctuary resources from user impacts, and update pollution discharge language.

Diver Safety Regulations

Updated language to require that all moored vessels engaged in diving activities at FGBNMS 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.

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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Discharge Regulations

Updated the prohibition of discharges to clarify that the prohibition applies to discharges into the sanctuary as well as from within sanctuary boundaries. This applies, for example, to discharges from aircraft, waste thrown from vessels, and other similar activities.

Clarified that dumping of fish, fish parts, or chumming materials is only permitted during fishing with conventional hook and line gear within the sanctuary.

Clarified discharge of vessel waste to:
• only allow discharges of clean water incidental to vessel operations and clean effluent from an operable Type I or II marine sanitation device (MSD)
• require that vessel operators lock all MSDs in a manner that prevents discharge or deposit of untreated sewage

Added definitions for the terms “clean” and “harmful matter” to provide quality standards for discharges of effluent and water incidental to vessel operations. These replace the previous use of the term "biodegradable."

The requirements relating to vessel discharges from marine sanitation devices (MSDs) and other sources are now consistent with industry best management practices and recent vessel discharge regulations implemented for other national marine sanctuaries. 

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silhouette of a manta ray

Ray and Whale Shark Regulations

Added a new regulation to prohibit killing, injuring, attracting, touching, or disturbing rays or whale sharks, except for incidental catch by conventional hook and line gear.

Added definitions for the terms "attract or attracting" and "disturb or disturbing."

The purpose of the regulations is to reduce adverse human interactions with rays and whale sharks, while still allowing people to swim or dive near them.  Whale sharks and rays are not listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). These species are also not designated as depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), because they are not mammals. Therefore, they are not protected from harassment and injury in the same manner as threatened and endangered species under the ESA or depleted marine mammals under the MMPA. 

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Technical Corrections to Regulations

Technical corrections were made to the regulations document to eliminate outdated references of paragraphs that no longer appear in the regulations and update cross-references to other paragraphs.

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Bow of a boat with yellow lines running to a white mooring buoy on the water's surface

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Current Regulations Documents

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

Regulations, FGBNMS section (67kb pdf) - Updated Subpart L, outlining only regulations specific to Flower Garden Banks NMS (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 the regulations most likely to be applicable to individual visitors to the sanctuary; not a comprehensive summary (2012)

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

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weather report observations cool stuff get wet

Gray-green tube sponge cluster in foreground.  Algae covered rocks in background.  Tubes range from 5-20 inches tall and about 1 to 3 inches across.
National Marine Sanctuary logo - a stylized whale tail above waves