From the NOAA Marine Sanctuaries website…
Scientists continue to explore a broad spectrum of possible causes for July’s mass mortality event at East Flower Garden Bank within Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary, including environmental conditions and human activities. Meanwhile, their efforts are now complicated by a new but unrelated coral bleaching event, which can happen this time of year when corals are stressed by warmer water temperatures.
A preliminary review of vessel traffic data revealed a lack of vessels in the vicinity just before the mortality event. This effectively rules out the possibility of an acute discharge of pollutants as the cause of the die-off. Earlier analyses indicated that no hydrocarbons were present in the area of the mortality, which further reduces the likelihood that the event was due to some sort of petroleum-based contamination.
Ongoing response efforts are now focused on additional analysis of oceanographic dynamics (see animation below) and water quality. NOAA research divers conducting additional response surveys earlier this month observed dead sponges in other locations around East Flower Garden Bank and on a nearby production platform just outside the boundary of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. The die-off and whatever caused it, therefore, may have been more widespread than initially thought. [READ MORE]