By Alex Scott
Coral reefs are essential marine ecosystems, and man-made climate change is threatening their survival around the world. When water becomes too warm for corals, they coral is at a much higher risk for mortality. And, because so many other animals rely on corals for food and shelter, the entire ecosystem of the reefs can break down and disappear.
Many environmental organizations like the WWF and NOAA are taking important steps to combat the loss of coral reefs. And artists around the world are taking a different approach. The 1000 Mermaids Artificial Reef Project & Gallery of 1000 Mermaids is an eco-art project that works with biologists, artists, and local environmental agencies to create artificial reefs made of concrete mermaid sculptures. These sculptures provide a solid surface for corals to grow on to help revive the ecosystem. They join other sculptors such as Jason deCaires Taylor, who has placed hundreds of sculptures across the Atlantic seabed, and Simon Morris, who created a nine-foot bronze mermaid sculpture (above) placed off the coast of Grand Cayman in 2000. These activist artists hope that artificial reefs will not only help marine life to return, but also encourage more tourism to the areas and increase interest in these extremely important biomes.
The 1000 Mermaids organization plans to install 1000 artificial reefs into the Floridian coast, and last August, they installed their first 18 off the coast of Palm Beach County. A year later, they have observed algae, sponges, and various fish species growing and living on the sculptures, proving that these artificial reefs are helping ecosystems come alive again.
Of course, the root cause of coral reef degradation is our rising ocean temperatures caused by climate change. Supporting marine conservation societies, groups like 1000 Mermaids, and writing to government representatives and encouraging them to support legislation that reduces carbon emissions can help ensure that coral reefs remain healthy for generations to come.
Learn more at 1000mermaids.com.
Photo by Jeff McNutt
This article appeared in the Beachcombing Magazine September/October 2020 issue.