By Maria Gregoriou
ARTIFICIAL reefs complete with sunken ships are to be created to enrich marine life and the underwater environment, manage fishing resources while also attracting locals and tourist to dive or snorkel.
“The first artificial reef was completed in 2009 in the Amathounta sea area and we are continuing the project with the creation of reefs in sea areas of Famagusta, Limassol and Paphos,” an official from the department said.
The official said such reefs are usually placed 35 to 40 metres from shore to protect sea life and must be in areas not prone to strong waves.
“Technical studies have been run to see where the reefs are to be placed and how to prepare and clean the ships. When the project is complete the ecosystem will be upgraded, divers will be attracted to the reefs, marine research can be conducted, and public awareness will be raised about protecting marine life,” said the official.
The project is being financed to a great extent by the EU fisheries programme which has been running from 2007 and will continue to 2013. Funding for the first reef was supported by the programme. Contributions to the project will be made by the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) and the Cyprus association of divers.
The budget has been set at €294,500 for the reef in Limassol, and €214,500 for Paphos. The Famagusta project will be set in Ayia Napa and Paralimni and both reefs have a separate estimated budget of €214,500.
If everything goes to plan the projects will be completed in 2013. “We expect that all reefs will be created and ready by the end of 2013 or the start of 2014,” the official said.
A ship named Laboe, close to the Latsi area and will be set in the sea off Kato Paphos, close to Moulia. The Memesis III ship is currently at Larnaca port and will be placed in the sea off Paralimni, close to the Liberty ship to enrich the area further. The ships Costandis and Lady Thetis are at the new Limassol port and will be placed in the sea off Dasoudi beach.
The first ship sunk in the Amathounta sea area is an old fishing vessel, is 25 metres long.
The most famous diving wreck in Cyprus is the world-famous Zenobia. The 12,000 tonne passenger roll-on roll-off ferry capsized off the coast of Larnaca 33 years ago, taking with it over 100 lorries and industrial machinery.
Today, it is regarded as one of the world’s top ten wreck dives because of the wide variety on offer, with cargo, sea life and scenic underwater views all available. The wreck’s top sits at 15m below the water while the maximum depth is 42m, attracting both novices and advanced divers.