Fewer than 100 miles off the coast of Brazoria County, deep underwater, sits the only national marine sanctuary in the Gulf of Mexico, Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Federal protections recently expanded to create a sanctuary area encompassing what looks like a kind of archipelago of coral stretching across the northern Gulf, along the edge of the continental shelf.
“While not easily accessible to many people, these features are incredibly diverse and productive, and provide important habitat to a variety of fish species of recreational and commercial importance,” sanctuary Superintendent G.P. Schmahl said in an email. “Inclusion in the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary will protect them from a number of potential impacts related to vessel anchoring, oil and gas activities and certain fishing gear.”