The United States government approved the expansion of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary making the Gulf of Mexico’s coral sanctuary 200 percent larger.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the expansion of the boundaries will protect “important habitat for vulnerable species such as mobula rays, sea turtles, and whale sharks, while serving as nurseries for numerous fish species of commercial and recreational importance.” The Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary (FGBNMS) will now include portions of 14 additional reefs and banks in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, representing approximately a 104 square mile increase in area.
“The more we found out about these areas, the more we realized that they are as diverse and as productive as any marine communities in the world,” said G.P. Schmahl, Superintendent of the sanctuary.
The FGBNMS, which is located 70 to 115 nautical miles off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas, was first designated as a National marine Sanctuary on Decemeber 5, 1991. The concentration of the expansion of the sanctuary emerged as a top priority after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion, which was the largest offshore marine oil spill in U.S. history, Good News Network reported.
The new rule, which will go into effect in the spring, will “ultimately, expanding FGBNMS will help ensure that valuable marine resources remain available for the use and enjoyment of future generations of Americans,” according to NOAA.
“Adding these ecologically significant reefs and banks will protect habitats that contribute to America’s blue economy and drive ecological resilience for much of the Gulf of Mexico region’s thriving recreation, tourism, and commercial fishing,” Tim Gallaudet, Ph.D., deputy NOAA administrator and retired Navy rear admiral, said.