Agriculture Minister Costas Kadis on Saturday attended the sinking of ‘Elpida’ boat off Larnaca, a move aimed at creating protected areas of artificial reefs around the island.
Elpida, a 63-metre long boat, brought from Greece, is the biggest of the five vessels sunk so far off the coast of Cyprus for the creation of such reefs.
The vessel was sunk in front of the Palm Beach hotel in Larnaca, around two kilometres from the shore, at a 30-metre depth and it will be the sixth such protected artificial reef area.
At the ceremony, Kadis said that the boat was sunk in an area that has been studied and presents relatively limited natural reefs and other habitats and “is expected to significantly copntribute to the creation of shelters, growth and feeding site for many species of marine flora and fauna, contributing substantially to the protection and development of biodiversity in the region.”
He also said that artificial reefs, “create opportunities for sustainable development by promoting diving tourism and encouraging scientific research.”
“The Larnaca marine protected area will be a reference point for all who love and enjoy the sea,” the minister said.
He said that currently, the fisheries department is promoting the creation of artificial reefs and other similar projects, totaling €2.2m as part of the implementation of the ‘Thalassa’ scheme for the 2014-2020 programming period
“These are projects that have been integrated into the programme of the President of the Republic and are expected to make a decisive contribution to the development and protection of marine life but also to raising citizens’ awareness on marine biodiversity,” Kadis said.
The sinking of Elpida was a coordinated effort by the fisheries department and the Larnaca Tourism Board. The latter, he said, has exerted great efforts for the purchase of the vessel and bring it to Cyprus with the support of more than 30 sponsors such as local and state authorities, companies and diving schools.
The project, according to the fisheries department, is funded by 75 per cent from the EU and 25 per cent from the government through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund 2014-2020.
On Tuesday another vessel, the LEF1, will be sunk in the same area at a 13-metre depth so that it can be accessible not only to divers but also for snorkeling, the Larnaca Tourism Board said. The vessel was donated by Lefkaritis Bros Ltd.