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 three hundred species of fish, twenty-one species of coral, several species of crustaceans, four 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.