Underwater art as a conservation tool: raising awareness, relieving pressure on natural reefs

Presented by Casuarina McKinney-Lambert

Mallory Raphael

In October 2014, the Bahamas Reef Environment Educational Foundation (BREEF) embarked on the creation of the country’s first underwater living art gallery. The Sir Nicholas Nuttall Coral Reef Sculpture Garden is a one of a kind snorkeling and scuba diving experience for Bahamians and visitors that serves as a multipurpose hub for the marine environment including: 1. A perfect fusion of art, education and marine conservation 2. Provides habitat for fish, corals and other marine organisms 3. Diverts snorkelers and divers away from natural reefs and thus providing space for natural rejuvenation. 4. An exceptional outdoor classroom for environmental education 5. A study site for public participation in scientific research Since day 1 the site as garnered local and international attention while raising awareness on threats to coral reefs such as climate change and oil pollution. After a series of surveys, fish abundance and organism biodiversity have shown an increase. There is also evidence that the ever-changing art installation is relieving some human impacts on natural reefs, thus helping to reverse the decline of coral reef ecosystems in the recently announced Southwest Marine Managed Area.

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