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February 4, 2008

Contact: Shelley Du Puy, 409-621-5151 ext.106

New Fish Species Discovered in NOAA's Flower Garden Banks Marine Sanctuary

Scientists from NOAA's Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary have confirmed that a new species of a colorful coral reef fish species has been discovered in the Gulf of Mexico at the Flower Garden Banks, 100 miles off the coast of Texas.

The fish is known as the "Mardi gras wrasse" due to the bright carnival-like coloration of purple, yellow, and green of the adult male.

“The fact that a new species of colorful fish has only recently been discovered emphasizes the importance of special habitats like the Flower Garden Banks in protecting biodiversity of the marine environment,” said George Schmahl, sanctuary superintendent.

The fish was originally observed at the East Flower Garden Bank in 1997 by members of the Reef Environmental Education Foundation, and has been seen periodically at Stetson Bank. Subsequent investigation by Weaver and sanctuary staff confirmed that the fish was in fact a previously undescribed species of wrasse.

The scientific name of the species is Halichoeres burekae, named in honor of sanctuary photographers Frank and Joyce Burek, who obtained the first photograph of the fish. The description and new name of this species of coral reef wrasse was published in the December 2007 issue of the journal Copeia.

Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary is one of 14 marine protected areas managed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of National Marine Sanctuaries. The sanctuary includes the two northernmost coral reefs in the continental U.S., coral/sponge communities, a brine seep and lake with a chemo-synthetic bacteria community, and other associated habitats. Resource protection objectives are met through a multi-disciplinary approach that includes management, research and monitoring, education and outreach, and regulation enforcement.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.

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