Looks like it’s safe to once again dive a reef about 100 miles/161km off the shores of Texas and Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico.
The East Flower Garden Bank was hit hard over the summer by a coral bleaching event that had scientists puzzled as to the cause, and recommending that diving and boating in the area be halted.
One thing they were able to rule out, though was a random ship dumping oil or some other kind of pollutant in the area. According to the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
“A preliminary review of vessel traffic data revealed a lack of vessels in the vicinity just before the mortality event. This effectively rules out the possibility of an acute discharge of pollutants as the cause of the die-off. Earlier analyses indicated that no hydrocarbons were present in the area of the mortality, which further reduces the likelihood that the event was due to some sort of petroleum-based contamination.”
That said, scientists are still doing surveys and collecting data in the area to try to figure out the exact cause. One problem: they’ve found other bleached corals that may or may not have ben affected by the initial event. The waters in the area do tend to warm up this time of year, though, which could have caused the bleaching.
But since they didn’t find any pollutants in the water, NOAA has lifted its recommendation to avoid diving, boating and fishing in the area.
“As always, scuba divers and anglers are reminded to use the mooring buoys provided, as anchoring is prohibited, and to adhere to all federal regulations.”
Scientists will be cruising and diving the area during the first half of October to monitor the situation. The NOAA blog post that describes the organization’s current efforts has more pictures as well as a GIF of the area’s salinity over the past month. Check it out at sanctuaries.noaa.gov.