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New initiatives to enrich Larnaca’s marine biodiversity

amphorae at elpida 2023 by george minas
Amphorae at Elpida - by George Minas

Sustainable initiatives for the marine protected area of Larnaca continued on Wednesday with the placement of amphorae at the Elpida shipwreck and the presentation of a recipe book for the invasive lionfish.

The Larnaca tourism board (Etap), the fisheries department, the Larnaca technical school, and a number of local diving schools collaborated for the event.

According to a press release by Etap Larnaca, “the first action saw the submerging of 200 amphorae at the Elpida wreck – which was sunk in 2019 at a depth of 29 metres”.

Following Elpida, the LEF1 vessel was submerged in 2020, whilst last year amphorae were submerged near a natural reef by Elpida, it added.

The press release also said that the fisheries department has recently finished demarcating the area to help in its more effective policing and the placement of boat mooring points.

Further initiatives are planned within the next year, including the submerging of a new vessel – the Lambousa II, along with the installation of artificial reef structures in the area

“In an age where overfishing and other factors threaten marine environments, the installation of environmentally friendly structures increases the sanctuaries available for marine organisms,” it said, adding that Larnaca’s sandy seabed does not naturally offer suitable substrate shelters for marine life.

“This action also contributes to the enrichment of diving tourism, which is one of Etap’s ongoing areas of enhancement,” it added.

Etap also stressed that the submerged amphorae are environmentally friendly, since they do not contain glazes, paints or toxic materials that could negatively affect marine life.

The action was completed with the support of the deputy ministry of tourism and a number of diving schools including Viking Divers, Zenobia Divers, Undersea World Scuba Diving and the Hippocampus Larnaca Sub Aqua Club.

In the meantime, as part of the event, culinary and artistic creations made with lionfish were presented, prepared by the Larnaca technical school, while a booklet of original recipes prepared by the school’s hospitality and catering branch was presented.

“The aim of this initiative is to raise awareness about the invasion of lionfish in Cyprus’ seawaters, and to propose solutions that will turn this challenge into an opportunity through the use of lionfish in gastronomy,” Etap said.

“The lionfish is an invasive species that has spread to the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal and unfortunately it seems that it is here to stay,” fisheries department director Marina Argyrou said, adding that despite its poisonous spokes which should be removed with care, “it is a tasty species and fishing, buying and eating it can help control its population”.

She also explained that the sunken vessel and new artificial reef constructions that are expected to be installed soon will create interconnectivity and enrich the areas that are points of gathering, reproduction and development of fish and other marine organisms.

Etap Larnaca president Dinos Lefkaritis said that the event was part of the actions that contribute to the sustainable development of the protected marine area of Larnaca, “combining support for the evolution of biodiversity in the reef, attracting diving interest, and encouraging the enrichment of culinary options both in the field of education and hotels and in general”.

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