Summer is field season for Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Typically, the Gulf of Mexico is warmer, seas are calmer, and underwater visibility is at it’s best this time of year.
But, this has not been a typical summer. Challenging sea conditions have caused us to reschedule or cancel several research cruises and have limited work efforts on others. While this isn’t entirely unusual, it is frustrating.
- Data collection was completed for Long-term monitoring efforts at East and West Flower Garden Banks and Stetson Bank. In addition, a new monitoring program was started at High Island A-389A, the gas production platform located within sanctuary boundaries.
- A mass mortality event was discovered by recreational divers at East Flower Garden Bank. We still haven’t figured out the cause, but the investigation is ongoing. Check out the latest news.
- As of late August, coral bleaching had begun in parts of the Flower Garden Banks. While some level of bleaching in late summer is not unusual due to elevated ocean temperatures, we try to keep an eye on it to gauge the severity and long-term consequences.
- Additional ROV exploration was conducted at several banks under consideration for sanctuary expansion with the help of the University of North Carolina Wilmington-Undersea Vehicles Program and the Mohawk ROV. We also conducted additional deepwater monitoring in areas around East, West and Stetson Banks.
- The second Lionfish Invitational took place aboard M/V FLING. Twenty-two recreational divers removed 394 lionfish over four days of diving, and an eight-person science team conducted pre- and post-removal surveys of each area.
With any luck, the field season isn’t quite over. We have three more trips on our October calendar and an optimistic outlook!