Selfies Saving The Reefs: Underwater Sculpture Garden in Palm Beach County
Divers and snorkelers will be able to take selfies around an underwater sculpture garden — 55 artificial reef modules attached to the seafloor. It’s all in the name of saving the environment in Palm Beach County.
The artificial garden features more than 50 tons worth of sculptures by noted marine artist and sculptor Chris O'Hare, owner of Reef Cells, who sculpted a 3D modeled mermaid reef and a memorial dedicated to veterans and first responders.
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The 1000 Mermaids Artificial Reef Project partnered with Palm Beach County’s Department of Environmental Resource Management for its second-annual public art installation.
Evan Snow is the executive director and project manager. Snow says the artificial reef deployment is an eco-tourism destination that helps coral restoration and fish biodiversity.
“This is the highest level of the intersection of art, science, technology, and coral restoration,” Snow said. “This is the peak of the moment of a very important fight to save the reefs.”
Snow says the attraction is one of the few ways to "raise awareness" about the dying coral reefs. Since the problem is underwater, he says it’s difficult to spread the message to the public.
“The coral reefs are out of sight, out of mind, for so many people and we know that,” Snow said. “It’s not a front-of-mind priority as is saving the Florida panthers or the manatees as we were growing up because you can see them.”
The Florida Reef Tract is suffering from an active coral disease outbreak, tissue loss and other symptoms which started off the coast of Miami-Dade County in 2014.
It affects “nearly half of Florida’s 45 reef-building coral species,” according to the Florida Department of Environmental Protection.
Snow says everything is connected, from the coral reefs to the Everglades. And there are ecological and economic benefits to saving the coral ecosystem—any regular person can be part of the restoration process through "art, citizen science, and education."
"Even if you don’t live on the water, the coral reefs are our first line of protection against storm surge. Against flooding. They break down the wave energy that literally allows the wave to currently reach our coastline at the rate they are now,” Snow said. "If the reefs die ... and there is no first line of defense to break down the wave energy, it is literally accelerating the rate that we’re going to be underwater in Florida.”
Divers can start Monday, off of Peanut Island near the Blue Heron Bridge.