The United States government approved the expansion of the biggest coral sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico, a decision that will contribute to better protect fragile coral reefs where live a large variety of fish and other marine life.
“It’s an incredibly important place in its own right,” says G.P. Schmahl, the sanctuary’s superintendent. “With all the colorful corals and fish around them, it’s just a glorious area.”
The expansion plan means that the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary will triple in size. “It’s a real win for the Gulf of Mexico,” says Kara Fox, director of Gulf Coast restoration at the National Audubon Society.
The sanctuary located along the coast of the states of Louisiana and Texas will expand from 56 square miles to 160 square miles. Established in 1992 and managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the sanctuary is home to many endangered species, including sea turtles, corals, manta rays, and the Mardi Gras wrasse, a tiny fish discovered in 1997 which is known to live in only one other area, the Vera Cruz region of Mexico. Through the expansion, an additional 14 reefs will be protected from bottom-tending fishing gear, ship anchors, and oil and gas exploration.