Schools of vibrant fish, storied shipwrecks, and a deep sense of connection to marine life are all major draws for divers, but one eco-art project along the Florida coast is creating a thousand more.
The 1,000 Mermaids Artificial Reef, founded by Ocean Rescue Alliance International, is peppering the ocean floor with eco-friendly sculptures on a mission. The mermaids—some playful, others pensive—were handcrafted by Chris O’Hare with Reef Cells and placed in strategic locations off the Florida coastline.
These mermaids aren’t just pretty faces. Each sculpture is equipped with “coral loks,” small devices that enable out-planting, a process that secures nursery-grown corals onto reef habitats where they can continue to grow.
In addition to the mermaid sculptures, habitat structures, and other characters, like a diver with a historic suit and headgear, were also lowered onto the seafloor to help promote coral growth.
The reason is clear: Coral reefs are in trouble. As a marine conservation and restoration organization, the alliance finds creative ways to improve the state of the coral reefs, which, due to climate change, pollution, and unsustainable fishing, among other threats, have faced decline over the years.
Healthy coral reefs provide a habitat for roughly 25 percent of all marine species, rivaling the biodiversity of tropical rainforests. Healthy coral reefs can also absorb up to 97 percent of a wave’s energy, which helps buffer shorelines, protecting people and property.
Go ahead, dive in: Roughly 95 structures and 25 sculptures have already been installed off the coast of Palm Beach County, plus 30 more off Hollywood Beach. Projects underway include installations near the Bay Harbor Islands, St. Petersburg, and Miami. In all, the organization plans to line the ocean floor with 1,000 sculptures.
Know Before You Go
The Hollywood and Palm Beach County sculpture sites are roughly an hour’s drive apart. Divers can arrive at the listed coordinates with their own boats or, the project recommends making reservations with a dive charter.
Palm Beach County coordinates: N 26°45.2703'; W 080°01.6392'
Hollywood coordinates: N 25°59.2913’; W 80°05.6623’