Near the coast of Galveston, Texas, lies the only National Marine Sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico. Flower Garden Banks is the coral reef haven you never knew existed.
Discovered in the early 1900s by fishermen, the sanctuary was named for the vibrant colors of the sponges and corals that were visible from the boats. The first scientific study took place in 1936, and over the decades, scientists and environmentalists have succeeded in making this the first and only protected marine sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico.
Hosting such a diverse ecosystem, from mantas and whale sharks, to moray eels and the unique Mardi Gras Wrasse, this refuge is a haven to so many species you just have to see it for yourself! After all of the diseases and bleaching events in the recent past, these banks and reefs have proven to be quite resilient. in 2019, after gathering years of data, scientists estimated only 1% coral loss from bleaching due to higher water temperatures. This is impressive, compared to the storied losses of The Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and others which lost as much as 70%. Along with the protections that have been in place to reduce damage over the past decades, the sanctuary was expanded on January 19, 2021, to increase the size from 56 square miles, to 160 square miles!