Feds triple the size of the Gulf of Mexico’s largest coral sanctuary

Houma Today

The Gulf of Mexico’s largest coral sanctuary just got a lot bigger.

The federal government on Tuesday formally approved the expansion of the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, increasing its size from 56 square miles to 160 square miles.

Tripling the sanctuary’s size will better protect fragile coral reefs that support a variety of fish and other marine life off the coasts of Louisiana and Texas, said G.P. Schmahl, the sanctuary’s superintendent.

“From an economic point of view, it’s critical for fish that are important both recreationally and commercially,” he said, noting the abundance of red snapper, grouper and mackerel in the sanctuary. “If you fish the Gulf of Mexico, these areas are where the fish you want to catch have spawned and grown.”

The expansion “has been a long haul,” Schmahl said. Initially proposed under the administration of President George W. Bush and formalized under President Barack Obama, the process finally concluded concluded during the final week of President Donald Trump’s administration.

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