Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary

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Chapter 3. SITE DESCRIPTION

f - Impacts and threats affecting the area

Impacts and threats within the area


Impact and threats level Evolution In the short term Evolution In the long term Species affected Habitats affected Description / comments
Exploitation of natural ressources: Fishing limited increase unknown Anecdotal reports from experienced observers, including numerous researchers and recreational divers, suggest a decline in the number of large fish (principally groupers and jacks). Also, lower numbers of large pelagic sharks, primarily the scalloped hammerhead, have been observed during the winter months in recent years. The level of private, charter and commercial fishing is not well documented, but appears to be increasing. Discarded fishing gear and injured or dead fish, moray eels and sharks have been documented. A spear gun was recently found at East Flower Garden Bank, and spear tips have been recovered from all three banks, indicating that prohibited activities are taking place. Longline fishing is illegal within the sanctuary, as is bottom trawling, yet longline gear is often encountered during ROV operations in deeper waters, as are discarded trawl nets. Active longline fishing within the sanctuary boundaries has been witnessed by dive charter operators.
Exploitation of natural ressources: Agriculture limited not specified not specified no agriculture
Exploitation of natural ressources: Tourism limited stable unknown The most common and persistent human activities occurring at the Flower Garden Banks are diving and fishing, but other activities, such as anchoring by large vessels and dragging of tow cables, occasionally occur. The levels of recreational diving activities appear stable at present.
Exploitation of natural ressources: Industry significant unknown not specified Contaminants originate from discharges from oil and gas platform operations. The exact contaminants contained in produced water are highly variable and difficult to track accurately. It is known that heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium, mercury and radioactive compounds, are associated with oil and gas activities in some circumstances. Studies have shown that the sediments surrounding the gas production platform known as High Island A389A, located within the sanctuary boundaries, contain comparatively high levels of mercury, lead, cadmium, zinc and other contaminants, probably due to the stipulations that require drilling lubricants and cuttings be shunted to within 10 meters of the seabed to avoid creating a sediment plume that could envelope the shallow reef areas
Exploitation of natural ressources: Forest products limited not specified not specified no forest
Increased population limited not specified not specified no inhabitant
Invasive alien species significant unknown unknown The Indo-Pacific lionfish has recently become resident within the sanctuary. It has progressively spread throughout the Caribbean over the last two decades and the western Gulf of Mexico is one of the last areas in the Wider Caribbean to be invaded by this fish. Some other non-indigenous species exist in the sanctuary, but they are sparse enough to preclude substantial or persistent degradation to the ecosystem. Three colonies of an Indo-Pacific species of orange cup coral (Tubastraea coccinea) have been found in the sanctuary. This species may be becoming better established in the region. Prior to this finding, the coral had been reported in the Gulf of Mexico, but primarily on artificial structures such as oil and gas platforms. A Pacific species of nudibranch (Thecacera pacifica) was recently documented at Stetson Bank. It was photographed during reproduction, so it is likely that this species is becoming established.
Pollution significant unknown unknown Influxes of fresh water originating from land-based or river sources may contribute to the introduction of pollutants of terrestrial origin including pesticides and fertilizers, and cause lower salinity conditions, all of which can contribute to decreased water quality. Contaminants originate from discharges from oil and gas platform operations. The exact contaminants contained in produced water are highly variable and difficult to track accurately. It is known that heavy metals, such as lead, cadmium, mercury and radioactive compounds, are associated with oil and gas activities in some circumstances. Studies have shown that the sediments surrounding the gas production platform known as High Island A389A, located within the sanctuary boundaries, contain comparatively high levels of mercury, lead, cadmium, zinc and other contaminants, probably due to the stipulations that require drilling lubricants and cuttings be shunted to within 10 meters of the seabed to avoid creating a sediment plume that could envelope the shallow reef areas
Other significant not specified not specified Recent events of coral bleaching (2005 in particular) are the result of higher-thannormal seawater temperature extremes and reflect the threat that climatic induced temperature increases pose to the sanctuary. Coral diseases, although not as much a threat as in other parts of the Caribbean, have occurred within the sanctuary.

Impacts and threats around the area


Impact and threats Level Evolution In the short term Evolution In the long term Species affected Habitats affected Description / comments
Exploitation of natural ressources: Fishing limited unknown not specified no information found
Exploitation of natural ressources: Agriculture limited unknown not specified no information found
Exploitation of natural ressources: Tourism limited unknown not specified no information found
Exploitation of natural ressources: Industry limited unknown not specified no information found
Exploitation of natural ressources: Forest products limited unknown not specified no information found
Increased population limited unknown not specified no information found
Invasive alien species limited unknown not specified no information found
Pollution limited unknown not specified no information found
Other limited unknown not specified no information found