U.S. Flower Garden Banks
The U.S. Flower Garden Banks (often simply the "Flower Gardens") is a U.S. National Marine Sanctuary in the northwestern Gulf of Mexico, located roughly 105 miles (170 km) south of Sabine Pass, an area of Port Arthur, Texas.
The formation of offshore salt domes in the warm waters of the Gulf provided a colonization site for coral, which arrived and began reef-building roughly 10,000 to 15,000 years ago. Two reefs, East Flower Garden Bank and West Flower Garden Bank, were part of the National Marine Sanctuary when it was created in 1992. In 1996, the smaller nearby Stetson Bank was added to the sanctuary.
Typical for coral reefs, the Flower Garden Banks contain a large number of aquatic species. Almost 300 species of fish, 21 species of coral, several species of crustaceans, 4 dominant species of sponges, and a wide variety of sharks, skates, and rays. The loggerhead sea turtle is resident. Several resident whale sharks turn in frequent appearances; manta rays are also commonly sighted.