Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

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Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
Protected Area
Flower Gardens NMS map.jpg
Map of Flower Garden Banks
Country United States
Region Gulf of Mexico
Coordinates 27°55′N 93°43′W / 27.917°N 93.717°W / 27.917; -93.717Coordinates: 27°55′N 93°43′W / 27.917°N 93.717°W / 27.917; -93.717[1]
Sanctuary administrative headquarters in Galveston, Texas

The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is a U.S. National Marine Sanctuary in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, located 100 nautical miles (185 kilometers) offshore of Galveston, Texas.

Underlying salt domes forced the seafloor upward in various areas of the Gulf of Mexico which resulted in the formation of rises and banks. The water conditions of the Gulf of Mexico were conducive for reef-building, which started roughly ten to fifteen thousand years ago.

Two reefs, East Flower Garden Bank (EFGB) and West Flower Garden Bank (WFGB), were part of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) when it was initially created in 1992. In 1996, Stetson Bank was added to the sanctuary. The area between each of these three banks are not contiguous.

The sanctuary contains a high number of aquatic species. Almost three hundred species of fish and over twenty species of coral are found in the sanctuary. A wide variety of crustaceans, sponges, flora are present. FGBNMS provides habitat for many protected and/or threatened species including marine mammals, sharks, rays, and sea turtles. Many fish species important to recreational and commercial fisheries inhabit the areas.


The first recorded discovery of the areas comprising FGBNMS did not occur until 1936, when EFGB, WFGB, and Stetson Bank were included in a hydrographic survey of the Gulf of Mexico. The expedition was conducted by the U.S. Coast & Geodetic Survey (now the National Ocean Service, of which the National Marine Sanctuary Program is a part). The survey provided valuable information about the geological and topographical characteristics of the banks. These initial surveys, along with additional surveys conducted in the 1950s, have led researchers to conclude that the banks originated when salt domes forced overlaying sediments upward to form underwater mountains.

Dr. Thomas Pulley, Director Emeritus of the Houston Museum of Natural Science, led a team of eager explorers to investigate EFGB and WFGB in the early 1960s. The presence of coral reefs off the Texas coast was still being debated at that time. Some researchers predicted the area would be too cold, or too turbid, to support any extensive coral reef development. In addition to professional researchers, the explorers included volunteers from all walks of life. These scuba diving explorations, however, revealed that EFGB and WFGB did indeed support extensive, pristine coral reef systems.[2]

In the late 1960s, Robert Alderdice and James Covington established the Flower Gardens Ocean Research center (FGORC), heralding a period of intense multi-agency, interdisciplinary research, which continues to this day. Results of this on-going research prompted government agencies to begin discussing the need to protect the banks from increasing human activities, including oil and gas extraction, anchoring on the reefs and harvesting fish, corals and other invertebrates. With passage of the Marine Research and Sanctuaries Act in 1972, researchers began discussing the Flower Garden Banks as a candidate for designation as a National Marine Sanctuary.

During the 1980s, recreational divers were also discovering the Flower Garden Banks. The Houston Underwater Club led a movement to have the banks officially designated as sanctuaries by submitting a formal letter of nomination in 1979. Due to a number of issues, eleven years passed before the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary was officially established. President George H. W. Bush authorized Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary as the 10th National Marine Sanctuary on January 17, 1992. Stetson Bank was added to the sanctuary in 1996.

The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary administrative offices and laboratories are located in a renovated historic building, a part of the former Fort Crockett, in Galveston, Texas. Research Vessel MANTA is also located in Galveston, and provides a working platform for researchers. A system of mooring buoys, which reduces resource impacts from anchoring, is maintained by FGBNMS staff.


  1. ^ "GulfBase - Flower Garden Banks". Retrieved 2011-12-29. 
  2. ^ Gittings, SR; Deslarzes, KJP; Holland, BS; Boland, GS. "Ecological monitoring on the flower garden banks: Study design and field methods". In: Jaap, WC (ed). Advances in Underwater Science…90. Proceedings of the American Academy of Underwater Sciences Tenth annual scientific diving symposium. Retrieved 2012-01-08. 

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