Ayia Napa braces for opening of first underwater museum in the Mediterranean

Ayia Napa braces for opening of first underwater museum in the Mediterranean

93 sculptures by British artist Jason deCaires will create an artificial reef increasing the area’s biodiversity and diving tourism appeal

Living by the sea explains it all. So, it came as no surprise to locals of the coastal town of Ayia Napa in Cyprus when their mayor Christos Zannetos ditched his shirt and shoes for an aqualung and flippers to dive into the waters off Pernera beach. The purpose of this adventure was far from recreational, as the mayor was in fact inspecting a museum displaying submerged sculptures ahead of its official opening on 31 July.

Artworks attract marine life and tourists

93 works by British artist Jason deCaires Taylor, inspired by the interaction between man and nature, many taking themes from Greek mythology, have been installed at the Museum of Underwater Sculpture Ayia Napa (Musan) which is billed as the first underwater museum in the Mediterranean. 

The author, an environmentalist famed for his artworks serving as artificial riffs, is behind the world’s first underwater sculpture park, the Molinere Bay Underwater Sculpture Park, created in 2006 and listed among the 25 Wonders of the World by National Geographic.

As reported by the Cyprus Mail, Mayor Zannetos was accompanied in his underwater tour by Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos and Taylor himself who checked out the state of the sculptures before the grand opening.

The sculptures, made of sea materials such as stones, rocks and shells, have been placed in a sandy area, 200 metres from the coastline, at depths between six and 10 metres, so as to attract a variety of marine creatures. The museum said in a statement that it hopes the biodiversity of the area will be enriched not before long and an amazing underwater forest, the first of its kind in the world, will come into being.

Apart from preserving and enriching Ayia Napa’s biodiversity, the municipality hopes to attract diving tourists through the underwater museum. The projections are of more than 50,000 visitors annually throughout the year, as the temperature of Cypriot waters is suitable for diving all year round.

Sculptures integrated in local ecosystem

Taylor’s artworks are essentially artificial reefs, formed of carefully manufactured sculptures. Each sculpture is created using durable, non-toxic, pH neutral marine grade cement, free from harmful pollutants, which becomes an integral part of the local ecosystem. The rough texture of the cement encourages coral larvae to attach and thrive in its crevices, while folds of clothing form nooks where fish and crustaceans settle in.

To maximise the positive environmental impact, Taylor often places his sculptures away from existing reefs, often in areas of barren sandbanks. This tactics gives a boost to biodiversity, but also deflects careless divers from the delicate ecosystems and fragile corals of existing reefs.  

Fostering care and understanding of marine ecology

Over the past few decades, the Earth has lost over 40 percent of its natural coral reefs. The World Resources Institute warns that 90 percent of coral reefs will be in danger by 2030 and all of them by 2050. Against this gruesome backdrop, Taylor says his underwater museums are instrumental in fostering care and understanding of jeopardized marine ecosystems.

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