In Fort Lauderdale, Florida an unusual nonprofit has emerged which is an underwater art installation in which one thousand mermaid statues will be placed to help the local coral reefs. What is different is that mermaid statues are being molded from live models.
According to 1000mermaids.com, The 1000 Mermaids Artificial Reef Project & Gallery of 1000 Mermaids is an underwater, eco-friendly destination for tourism, research, and coral restoration.
The statues, made of sustainable concrete donated by GL Homes and created using 3D scanning and body casts, will allow new coral to attach itself and hopefully the colonies will spread.
In the meantime, the likenesses of the models will guard the existing reefs. The statues will be placed along the eastern coast of Florida at a depth of about forty five feet.
Ernest Vasquez and Sierra Rasberry are the artists behind the sculptures built by Boynton Beach artist and Reef Cells founder Chris O’Hare using the newly patented Coral Lok system. The Coral Lok system uses Coral Frag Plugs which will allow coral to be fastened to an artificial coral reef.
Previously the rocks had to be sanded and chiseled to form a rough edge to allow the coral to attach itself. Now coral can be raised in a protected environment on the lock system and delivered into the ocean as soon as they are ready.
The fasteners are made from 90% calcium carbonate and will not harm the coral in any way. It is so easy to do that volunteers with little experience can easily place them.
The idea started when Vasquez and Rasberry, who had founded Miami Body Cast, were making commissioned body sculptures for yachts and homes.
A client ordered a sculpture for his yacht but before it could be delivered the client lost the yacht in a divorce. The couple were aware of the damages done to the reefs and with a life sized unusable mermaid statue in their inventory they had the idea of helping support ocean conservation.
The founders are hoping the installation will bring attention to the plight of coral reefs all over the world which are being killed by construction, disease, coral bleaching, hurricanes, warming seas, human carelessness and pollution.
Reef Cells has already placed a number of artificial reefs made from limestone concrete & calcium carbonate in South Florida. Many have been placed in hurricane damaged locations to act as a buffer against rising water during storms and help to stop erosion until the reefs can recover.
NOAA reports that the reefs in South Florida have an asset value of over eight billion dollars, generate almost five billion in retail sales and two billion which supports seventy thousand jobs. They estimate that coral reefs around the world generate three hundred and seventy five billion dollars in revenue.
Eighteen of the newly created sculptures were deployed about a mile southeast of the Lake Worth inlet in Palm Beach County in August of 2019.
The mermaids are depicted as sitting or lying near an artificial reef base. They are about eight feet tall and weigh two tons and some were sprayed with calcium carbonate to help the coral attach which gives them a ghostly hue.
One of the statues has a selfie station for underwater photos and some will include poetry or stories.
The 1000mermaids team also offers memorial sculptures that can make body casts from a picture of a lost loved one. They can be a life sized statue on a base to a small artificial reef lettered to memorialize someone.
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Designated as a 501C, the nonprofit gladly accepts donations of any size as well as time to help with the project. T-shirts, stainless steel water bottles and face masks are also available through their website.
While 1000mermaids is still taking applications for divers, the waiting list to have your likeness sit on the ocean floor forever is quite extensive.