NEW ORLEANS (AP) — A federal marine sanctuary protecting coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico could grow five times in size under a plan being proposed to safeguard an even larger area of the Gulf from scavengers looking for historic shipwrecks, ships dropping anchor, commercial fishing and oil and gas drilling.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration wants to enlarge the Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary from 56 square miles to cover 280 square miles.

The sanctuary, first established in 1992, includes the northernmost coral reefs in the continental United States. A series of reefs, sitting atop salt dome sea mounts, are found along the rim of the Continental Shelf between about 70 miles and 150 miles off the coasts of Texas and Louisiana.


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