Help Expand the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Help Expand the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

Off the coast of Texas, spectacular coral reefs in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary provide a home for sea turtles, manta rays, and all manner of ocean life. Now, we have a chance to expand the sanctuary to protect more of these special places.

About 100 miles off the coast of Texas, dozens of “banks,” or underwater mountains, protrude from the sea floor, rising nearly to the surface. On the slopes of these underwater mountains, hidden beneath the water of the Atlantic ocean, sit spectacular coral reefs providing a home for sea turtles, manta rays, and all manner of ocean life.

The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary protects three of these underwater mountains and now, we have a chance to expand the sanctuary to protect more of these special places. Recognizing that this sanctuary provides critical habitat for endangered species and that these fragile ecosystems need our protection, NOAA has proposed expanding the sanctuary from 3 to 17 underwater mountain banks, tripling the number of square miles that are protected.

There are three things you can do to support the expansion and protection of this special ecosystem:

Submit public comments supporting the expansion.

Publicly submitted comments have an impact and help agency policy makers improve federal regulations. You can visit federalregister.gov to comment directly on the proposed rule until July 3, 2020. Below is a sample comment you can copy and paste as your comment, and add your own input if you like. NOAA will accept anonymous comments (enter “N/A” in the required fields if you wish to remain anonymous).

[sample comment]

Click here to post your comments.

Register for, and give testimony at, one of the three public hearings.

The sanctuary will host three virtual public meetings for the public to learn more about the proposal and submit comments. All meetings are in Central Time. To participate in the public hearings, online registration is requested in advance via the following links. If you are unable to participate online, you can also connect to the public hearings using the phone numbers provided below. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.

  1. June 8, 2020, 1:00 p.m.—3:00 p.m. CDT
    1. Registration: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/​register/​9162740973626770700
    2. Phone: +1 (213) 929-4232 PIN: 704-409-034
  2. June 8, 2020, 6:00 p.m.—8:00 p.m. CDT
    1. Registration: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/​register/​1668176149101021196
    2. Phone: +1 (213) 929-4232 PIN: 682-728-246
  3. June 11, 2020, 6:00 p.m.—8:00 p.m. CDT
    1. Registration: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/​register/​5569362151706075916
    2. Phone: +1 (415) 655-0052 PIN: 486-551-096

If you would like to provide comment during the hearings, please sign up in advance. Select “yes” during the online registration. The line-up of speakers will be based on your date and time of registration.

If you will be participating by phone, please send an email to fgbexpansion@noaa.gov to add your name to the speaker list.

Learn more about expanding the Sanctuary

Learn more about the Sanctuary and the expansion by watching the webinar we hosted on May 26th and share what you learn with your friends!

Background

Building on more than 30 years of scientific studies, NOAA is issuing a notice of proposed rulemaking to expand Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. The proposal would expand the sanctuary from 56 square miles to 160 square miles to protect additional critical habitat in the Gulf of Mexico.

The existing Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary was designated in 1992 and added to in 1996. It includes the northernmost coral reefs in the continental United States, deepwater reef communities, and other essential habitats for a variety of marine species.

The proposed rule for expansion would add 14 additional reefs and banks to the sanctuary. These reefs provide important habitat for recreationally and commercially important fish, as well as threatened or endangered species of manta rays, sea turtles, and corals.

This proposed rule would extend existing sanctuary protections to these new areas to limit the destructive impact of activities related to fishing with bottom-tending gear, ship anchoring, oil and gas exploration and production, and salvage activities on sensitive biological resources.

NOAA’s map of the proposed expansion shows the boundaries in white.

Resources

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