The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries would like to notify the public that NOAA will be holding two meetings in Louisiana to explain and get feedback on their proposal to expand the boundaries of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana in the Gulf of Mexico. Meeting details are as follows:
Where: Hilton New Orleans Airport, Segnette Room, 901 Airline Drive, Kenner, Louisiana 70062
When: Tuesday, July 19, 2016, 5:30-7:30 pm
Where: Estuarine Habitats and Coastal Fisheries Center, 646 Cajundome Boulevard, Lafayette, Louisiana 70506
When: Thursday, July 21, 2016, 5:30-7:30 pm
NOAA is considering five different options for expanding the sanctuary to better manage and protect important habitat and cultural resources and provide more opportunities for research and restoration. Options range from keeping the status quo to expanding the sanctuary up to 935 square miles.
NOAA’s preferred option would expand the sanctuary 383 square miles to include an additional 15 banks, located from 70 to 120 miles offshore and comprised of reefs and bottom features that provide habitat for fish and other biological resources in the Gulf of Mexico. This proposal would extend the existing protections of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary to these additional areas to limit any activities considered bottom-disturbing. These protections allow for commercial and recreational fishing by hook and line only; shrimp trawls, longlines, spear guns, and other fishing gear are prohibited. Additionally, anchoring any vessel within protected areas is prohibited.
FAQs regarding impacts of the expansion can be found here: flowergarden.noaa.gov/management/expansionfaq.html
For additional details about the five alternatives being considered, click here: flowergarden.noaa.gov/management/expansiondeis.html
If you cannot attend one of these public meetings, you may also submit comments electronically or by mail.
· Electronically: go to www.regulations.gov using docket number NOAA-NOS-2016-0059. Click the “Comment Now!” icon, complete the required fields, and enter or attach your comments.
· Mail: George P. Schmahl, Sanctuary Superintendent, Flower Garden Banks NMS, 4700 Avenue U, Building 216, Galveston, TX 77551
Public comments must be received by August 19, 2016.
The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries is charged with managing and protecting Louisiana’s abundant natural resources. For more information, visit us at www.wlf.la.gov. To receive recreational or commercial fishing email and text alerts, signup at http://www.wlf.la.gov/signup.