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The 2008 Condition Report for Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary was released to the public on November 12, 2008. This is the first such comprehensive report that has been compiled for this sanctuary.

Located in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico the sanctuary includes three separate areas, known as East Flower Garden, West Flower Garden and Stetson Banks. The banks support several of the most productive and unique habitats in the Gulf of Mexico, including the northernmost coral reefs in the continental United States. This report summarizes the conditions and trends for the sanctuary’s water, habitat, and living resources.

Map showing the Gulf coasts of Texas and Louisiana and the relative locations of several offshore banks and reefs in the Gulf of Mexico.
The habitats of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGB and Stetson) are connected geologically and biologically to other banks across the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.

“The report shows us that even though the sanctuary is 115 miles offshore, this special ocean place is connected to other habitats in the Gulf that are also vulnerable to human activities,” said G.P. Schmahl, sanctuary superintendent. “The report serves as a benchmark of the current health of the sanctuary that will help us develop effective ways to preserve and protect it for future generations to enjoy.”

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Sanctuary in Good Condition but Emerging Threats Recognized

Chart showing status and trends of water quality in the sanctuary

In general, the health of most Flower Garden Banks sanctuary resources is rated as either “good” or “good/fair.” One current concern is the recent findings of high levels of several contaminants found in fish in and around the sanctuary. This has caused the Food and Drug Administration to issue a seafood advisory to seafood processors about fish caught around the sanctuary.

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A large, heavy-bodied, dark brown fish with white blotches all over its body.
The marbled grouper (Dermatolepis inermis) is a species of concern at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
Photo: Joyce & Frank Burek

Also of particular concern is the decreased abundance of certain fished species, including grouper, jacks, and snapper, which are dominant predators in the ecosystem. The report points to the need for continued research on how the removal of predatory fish species can affect the rest of the ecosystem.

Chart showing status and trends of living resources in the sanctuary

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Report Provides Baseline

The first report of this kind about the Flower Garden Banks NMS provides a baseline for monitoring changes to sanctuary resources and identifying research and management priorities. It also helps set the stage for the development of a comprehensive draft management plan for the sanctuary.

Chart showing status and trends of habitat within the sanctuary

Condition Reports have been completed for all of the national marine sanctuaries and can be viewed or downloaded at:

Download the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary Condition Report 2008 (1.6MB pdf)

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Orange, branching gorgonian (soft coral) anchored in a bed of sponges and other sea life.
National Marine Sanctuary logo - a stylized whale tail above waves