Trawler sunk off Protaras to create first artificial reef

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A nondescript fishing trawler has written itself into the local history books after embarking on a new career as the first artificial reef to be sunk off the coast of Cyprus.

The 57-year old NEMESIS III was scuppered yesterday morning and sank in less than two hours.

About 15 boats carrying sightseers positioned themselves as close as possible to the site off Protaras, and cheers went up when the boat slipped beneath the water.

Several hundred spectators also watched the spectacle from on-shore, with a live video link beaming close up pictures to large screen TV’s at the Kouzalis Hotel.

The vessel is now resting about 23 metres below the surface.

During its long life at sea, the trawler, which was built in France in 1956, had operated in the eastern part of the Mediterranean and in Libyan waters.

As the plugs were pulled from the hull of the vessel, Minister of the Environment Nicos Kouyialis said the new reef would help in the protection of marine biodiversity, recovery of marine ecosystems and promotion of diving tourism in the resort.

He added that all national and international standards and regulations for safety, cleaning, transfer of the boat were taken into account.

Three other inactive vessels will also be sent to a watery grave by summer next year. The former Soviet fishing trawler Costandis, Lady Thetis a 1950s German vessel and Laboe a pre- World War Two cruiser will be sunk at different locations off the island.

The government says that the new reefs will have the same characteristics as natural reefs and act as nursery grounds by providing space for reproduction, growth, feeding and refuge for marine organisms.

Supporters of the project say that as well as giving a boost to diving tourism, algae and sponges can grow on the surfaces of sunken wrecks creating small ecosystems and habitats for fish.

However, the reefs come with a significant price tag. The entire project, including the four vessels, has a cost of around €300,000. The project was co-funded by the European Union, European Fisheries Fund 2007-2013 and the Cyprus Government.

The initiative has been welcomed by diving schools across the island as a much needed addition to their product.

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.