A scuba diver swimming amid a school of fish at the Flower Garden Banks. (Photo: NOOA)
Final management plan released for Flower Garden Banks Sanctuary
Monday, April 30, 2012, 22:40 (GMT + 9)
A new rule prohibiting killing, injuring, touching or disturbing whale sharks and rays is part of the final management plan, regulations and environmental assessment for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, released by the agency.
The plan also includes revised regulations regarding use of dive flags by SCUBA divers; clarifies and updates restrictions on the release of any material into sanctuary waters; and limits the use of chumming materials to conventional hook and line fishing.
|Redllip blennies often perch on their pelvic fins on top of coral heads. (Photo: NOAA)
“The final management plan is the result of a collaborative effort and the hard work of sanctuary staff and the sanctuary’s advisory council,” said George Schmahl, sanctuary superintendent. “It includes detailed guidance for programme priorities that we will be used to manage this unique undersea resource for future generations to enjoy.”
Based on several years of scientific assessment and public input, the final management plan identifies actions to be undertaken by sanctuary staff within the next five to ten years to protect and conserve marine resources in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico. It includes six action plans, each addressing a specific priority identified during the initial public scoping process: sanctuary expansion, education and outreach, research and monitoring, resource protection, visitor use, and operations and administration.
The final management plan, regulations, and final environmental assessment take effect on 29 May, and can be viewed online. Beginning in 2006, the management plan was developed through an extensive public process that included input from stakeholders and the sanctuary's advisory council through workshops, public hearings and submission of comments. This is the first revision to the sanctuary’s original management plan published in 1991.
Periodic management plan review is required by Congress for each of the 13 national marine sanctuaries and one marine national monument administered under NOAA to ensure that they continue to conserve, protect and enhance their nationally significant living and cultural resources while allowing compatible commercial and recreational activities.
Located 70 to 115 mi off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is one of 14 marine protected areas managed by NOAA's Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. Designated 20 years ago in 1992, the sanctuary is home to some of the healthiest coral reefs in the South Atlantic and Caribbean region.
It currently includes three separate banks, encompassing 56 sqmi, that are part of a larger system of reefs and banks along the continental shelf in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico.
Photo Courtesy of FIS Member National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration NOAA/NMFS