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News & Events


Map of northwestern Gulf of Mexico showing recommended sanctuary expansion areas
Advisory Council recommendation for sanctuary expansion (click on map to see larger image)

February 2015--NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries has announced that it will prepare a Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS) to consider possible expansion of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary.

Expansion of the sanctuary emerged as one of the top priority issues during a comprehensive review of the Flower Garden Banks NMS management plan, which included significant public input.  Sanctuary Expansion is one of six action plans that are included in the resulting management plan published in April 2012.

When Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) was designated in 1992, the boundaries were established based on best available information regarding biologically sensitive habitats.  Subsequent advances in technology have revealed sensitive habitats between East and West Flower Garden Banks and around Stetson Bank that were not included within the original sanctuary boundary.

Map of Stetson Bank showing surrounding ring
Map of Stetson Bank and the sanctuary boundary. The ring of features around the bank, visible in this map, were unknown at the time of its addition to the sanctuary in 1996.
(click on map to see larger image)

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Additional exploration in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico has identified other reefs, banks and associated features that may be ecologically linked to FGBNMS and may also be highly vulnerable to certain human caused impacts.  Although many of these areas have some level of protection through other designations, inclusion in the sanctuary would provide a comprehensive management framework to fill in the existing regulatory gaps and provide necessary protection to these critical habitats.

Western section of a map showing existing management zones in northwestern Gulf of Mexico
Western section of northwestern Gulf of Mexico showing existing management zones
(click on map to see larger image)

Eastern section of a map showing existing management zones in northwestern Gulf of Mexico
Eastern section of northwestern Gulf of Mexico showing existing management zones
(click on map to see larger image)

On May 9, 2012, the Flower Garden Banks Sanctuary Advisory Council unanimously recommended implementation of the Sanctuary Expansion Action Plan as soon as possible. The advisory council is comprised of representatives of the major constituent and user groups associated with the Flower Garden Banks sanctuary, including diving, fishing, conservation, education, research and the oil and gas industry.

The EIS is being prepared through a public process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). Once the draft EIS is completed, it will be opened for public comment again before final action is taken.

The initial scoping period for the draft EIS ends on April 6, 2015 and all comments must be submitted to NOAA by close of business on that date. These comments will be used to guide development of the alternatives for sanctuary expansion and associated regulations that will be presented in the draft EIS.

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Three scoping meetings are planned for the public to learn more about the proposal and submit comments.

Meetings are scheduled for:

New Orleans, LA:  
Tuesday, March 3, 2015, 6-8 pm
Hilton New Orleans Airport
Cocodrie Room
901 Airline Drive
Kenner, LA  70062
(504) 469-5000

Houston, TX:  
Thursday, March 5, 2015, 6-8 pm
Bayland Community Center
6400 Bissonnet
Houston, TX 77074
(713) 541-9951

Galveston, TX:  
Wednesday, March 11, 2015, 6-8 pm
Flower Garden Banks NMS Office
NOAA Galveston Laboratory
4700 Avenue U, Building 216
Galveston, TX  77551
(409) 621-5151, x105

Comments may also be submitted via:

Federal eRulemaking Portal: Submit electronic comments via the Federal eRulemaking Portal with Docket Number NOAA-NOS-2014-0154.

Mail: George Schmahl, Sanctuary Superintendent, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, 4700 Avenue U, Building 216, Galveston, Texas 77551

The deadline for official comments on sanctuary expansion is Monday, April 6, 2015.

For more information, contact or call 409-621-5151, ext 105.

Download Press Release (197kb pdf)

Link to Federal Register Notice

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