Gulf of Mexico marine sanctuary triples in size

A Magnificent Frigatebird flying low over the sea with it's beak open, skimming the water. It may be diving for a fish.
Magnificent Frigatebird | Image: Peter Brannon

Expanded marine sanctuary is one of the only safe havens for Gulf seabirds

The Gulf of Mexico is still recovering from the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster 10 years ago. From the smallest plankton to the biggest whale sharks, the spill affected the entire northern Gulf ecosystem

After many years of consulting with the public and interest groups, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are tripling the size of an important marine sanctuary off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana. Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is one of only two protected areas in the entire Gulf of Mexico and increases from 56 to 160 square-miles.

Brightly coloured fish swimming in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary | Image: NOAA

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is one of the only safe havens for Gulf seabirds. Fishing gear will be limited, which decreases seabird bycatch and minimizes the amount of fish taken out of the ecosystem, providing seabirds with more fish to eat. Limiting oil and natural gas extraction will reduce the threat of additional oil spills in the Gulf.

Flower Garden Banks is so special—it’s the only place in the Gulf outside of the Florida Keys that you can see coral reefs, seabirds, sea turtles, and sharks all in one place. As oceanographer Sylvia Earle would put it, it’s a ‘hope spot’ for the marine life that are still recovering from the BP oil disaster

Kara Fox, Audubon’s director of Gulf Coast restoration
A diver swims among the coral and fish in Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary
Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary | Image: NOAA

Creating spaces in the ocean with little to no threats for the entire ecosystem to thrive has implications beyond the area of protection. As fish populations grow in number, they spill over to other areas of the ocean, creating more fish for people to harvest as well as seabirds and other marine wildlife to eat.

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