It's not everyday that one gets to witness the intentional sinking of two boats off the shore of any island; hence the lively atmosphere on the coast of Limassol recently as boats Lady Thetis and Costandis took their last breath of fresh air before being deployed at a 21 to 25-metre depth.
The event was part of the efforts of the Fisheries Department and the Cyprus Dive Centres Association (CDCA) to create five artificial reefs over the coming years.
Limassol is the second location to have witnessed the deployment of boats, after fishing vessel Nemesis III was deployed off the coast of Protaras in December last year.
"For Limassol it's the first organised underwater park, or artificial reef that is being created with the use of boats," commented Limassol Mayor Andreas Christou while he waited for the 11.30am green light to begin procedures.
"There is already a small reef close to Amathounta but this one was created with another approach. In this case, it's being carried out with the use of boats which won't be the last object to be included in the park," he added.
Artificial reefs are human-made underwater structures, typically built to promote marine life
in areas with a generally featureless seafloor.
And as Marios Evangelou, member of CDCA and managing director of Buddy Divers Ltd points out, the benefits of such infrastructures are many.
"Fishermen will benefit through the enrichment of the sea area, the biodiversity will increase in the area as well as fish stock, a shelter for fish will be created which is needed in the Mediterranean because its marine life is beginning to dry up."
The Department of Fisheries and Marine Research notes that classic fish management practices accepted around the world such restricting the amount of fishing gear and banning specific fishing nets cannot alone give solutions to the problems of overexploitation of fishery resources and over-fishing.
"In Cyprus, important marine habitats have been degraded, fish stocks have decreased significantly, fishing trips are becoming more expensive and it is getting more and more difficult for fishermen to survive," he added.
Aside from benefits to the island's marine life as a whole, Christou also embraced the boost the artificial reef will give to the tourism product, not just to the island as a whole but specifically to Limassol.
"Diving tourism is something of interest, and we consider this will not be the last artificial reef we create. Perhaps, with the help of CTO and the EU we will be able to create other similar spaces which are necessary; such spaces are missing from Cyprus."
Heading out to sea on Catamaran 'Sail Away', Evangelou accompanied a number of people interested in seeing the deployment of the boats from close, but also around 20 divers who ventured into the sea to see firsthand, how the boats had settled on the sea floor.
Introducing the site to divers is perhaps more important to Evangelou considering his line of work. "We will promote diving tourism in Cyprus, shipwreck diving is very widespread and popular across the world."
Admitting that this is only the beginning of the project, Evangelou is confident that artificial reefs in Cyprus will be an attraction, for visitors and locals alike, and not only. "This will also increase job employment, different schools will be able to visit the wreck, they will be able to see the biodiversity which will start to manifest itself in the area," adds Evangelou.
Photos by Pantelis Kranos