Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is located 70+ miles (113km) offshore to the south and south east of Galveston, TX. What many people may not know is that Flower Garden Banks is the only sanctuary located in the Gulf of Mexico and it is currently up for consideration to be expanded.

National marine sanctuaries are marine areas managed for the conservation of their natural and cultural resources (think of them as the national forests of the sea!), while also supporting sustainable recreation and sometimes commercial activities that are compatible.

The Flower Garden Banks sanctuary includes underwater communities that rise from the depths of the Gulf of Mexico atop three underwater mountains called salt domes.

East Bank map FGNMS
East Bank map FGNMS

What’s fairly unique about this sanctuary is the fact that the three underwater mountains, or “banks” are each a bit different: some covered in algae and sponges, and others with spawning coral. All three are home to a variety of fish, invertebrates and have pelagic visitors including manta rays and sharks which make them perfect for recreational diving and wildlife viewing.

Grouper and butterfly fish are just a few of the species you will see in the sanctuary waters. (photo courtesy of NOAA)
Grouper and butterfly fish are just a few of the species you will see in the sanctuary waters. (photo courtesy of NOAA)

The U.S. Office of National Marine Sanctuaries and the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation are at DEMA Show this year to raise awareness among divers that they should consider all the 13 different sanctuary sites in the national system as a potential location for their next dive trip and to remind the dive industry and relevant communities that their voices are needed and welcomed when sanctuary expansion decisions are at play.

Learn more about all of the USA’s national ocean treasures here: https://sanctuaries.noaa.gov/about/.

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