Coral Reef Off Texas Coast Seemingly Unharmed Following Harvey

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Tony Maples Photography


NBC DFW recently released an article indicating that approximately two months after Hurricane Harvey swept through the area, marine biologists confirmed that the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary off the coast of Texas was not only intact but also thriving. An expert from Rice University made the 70-foot dive in October, approximately 115 miles off of Galveston’s shoreline, to determine whether the storm’s deluge of freshwater had upset the salty marine environment, and to their relief, no adverse effects had been found.

With the exception of a few parts of the reef, the area appeared to be doing quite well. The diver explained, “You could see immediately there was not mass bleaching, there was not mass tissue die-off. You could tell this mass mortality event wasn’t occurring.” In the meantime, researchers partnering with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will be collecting samples in order to determine was the full scale of any impact from Harvey might have been. As a result of prior freshwater flooding in the area, scientists were prepared this time in order to collect water samples a month following the hurricane, and then make a second dive, two months following the event in order to truly inspect the area for potential signs of a mass die-off.

Coral Reef Off Texas Coast Seemingly Unharmed Following Harvey

Photo: Facebook/NOAA’s Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

It was noted by the news that, in an age where approximately 80 percent of the world’s stony coral cover on reefs is declining, divers continue to encounter what’s been described as “…colorful coral the size of cars” at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. “Sea turtles and lobsters can be found resting in the reef’s nooks and crannies, with nearly 300 different species of fish — from barracudas to angelfish to mardi gras wrasse — swimming in and around the area,” and, “…Manta rays glide gracefully over the reef, as moray eels pop out of the coral crevices when a meal comes into view,” according to reports.

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is one of a total of 13 underwater areas which are federally designated and being protected by NOAA. This list also includes three separate reef areas, noted as Stetson Bank, East Flower Garden Bank, and West Flower Garden Bank. NOAA seeks to expand this area by approximately 383 square miles of additional bottom features together with reefs, however, the proposal is presently awaiting approval by the Trump administration.