Two colorful fish swim along a coral reef in bright turquoise water.
Flower Garden Banks A colorful reef scene from Flower Garden Banks Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico. © Emma Hickerson/NOAA

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The Nature Conservancy Statement on Flower Garden Banks Expansion

The Nature Conservancy today released the following statement on the announcement from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Adnimistrtion about the expansion of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico.

“The expansion of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sactuary is a welcome and important step to securing the long-term health of the banks, their coral reefs, the marine species that depend on this sanctuary, and the Gulf of Mexico,” said Robert Bendick, director of The Nature Conservancy’s Gulf of Mexico program.“ Many species across the Gulf of Mexico depend on this sancturary and on other deepwater corals as vital habitat. This expansion means almost three-times more of this vital resource will be protected for generations to come. In 2016 The Nature Conservancy submitted public comments in favor of this proposal. Nearly five years later, following extensive collaboration with communities across the Gulf, we are grateful to NOAA to see this proposal become reality.”

The expansion adds 14 additional reefs and banks, and more than 100 sqaure miles, to the current sanctuary footprint. The reefs provide important habitat for recreationally and commercially important fish such as red snapper, mackerel, and grouper, as well as threatened or endangered species of sea turtles, corals, and manta rays. The expansion extends existing sanctuary protections to limit impact fromactivities such as fishing with bottom-tending gear, ship anchoring, oil and gas exploration and production, and salvage activies, and NOAA worked with many stakeholders in developing the expanded sanctuary boundaries and regulations. Stewardship, research, and monitoring activities will occur under the management plan to ensure the sanctuary meets its conservation goals.

“The elements of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem are connected by currents and by the migrations of marine species,” said Bendick. “The Flower Garden Banks are an biodiversity hotspot within the larger Gulf and contribute to its overall health and resilience.”

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries and territories: 38 by direct conservation impact and 34 through partners, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit www.nature.org or follow @nature_press on Twitter.