Cyprus | Posted:

Four large fishing vessels and a number a reef poles will be scuttled into the Cypriot Mediterranean throughout the first six months of 2013, as part of a €1.5m project that will create five new marine parks, encouraging the growth and protection of marine life around Cyprus.

Funded by the Cyprus Dive Centre Association, the Department of Fisheries and the Cyprus Tourism Organisation, the project builds on new island-wide fishing regulations enforced by the government which hope to create a more populous and diverse variety of marine life. Fishing in the marine parks, which will be situated in the waters surrounding Paphos, Limassol, Agia Napa, Protaras and Latchi, will be prohibited at any time creating a total protected area of 12 Km-squared.

Comprising disused fishing and liveaboard vessels, as well as artifical reef poles and objects, the scuttling stages of the project will be completed by June 2013 and the sites are scheduled to be open to recreational divers in July 2013.

Already home to more than 200 acknowledged dive sites, Cyprus offers one of the longest diving seasons in the Mediterranean with year-round sunshine, warm sea temperatures ranging from 27 to 16 ºC and excellent visibility thanks to the absence of plankton. Over 160,000 international divers visit the island every year.

Divers in Cyprus are also able to explore spectacular sea caves and tunnels, a broad range of marine life and discover a number of wrecks - including the infamous MS Zenobia, which sank off the coast of Larnaka in 1980 and voted one of the word’s top wreck dive sites in the world. (The five new sites would increase Cyprus’ wreck offering to a total of 16). Sea turtles can also be spotted, thanks to a turtle conservation project that has increased their numbers around the island considerably, while the remains of ancient amphora and stone anchors make historic diving a veritable adventure.

Non-diving companions can be kept entertained with the wealth of topside activities, including the rare opportunity to snorkel with Green and Loggerhead turtles off the beaches of Lara and Latchi.

The project is part of the Cyprus Dive Centre Association’s (CDCA) long-standing commitment to protecting the reefs and wrecks in Cyprus that are part of a rich underwater heritage. As well as the banning of fishing in any of the marine parks, the CDCA is lobbying to further restrict fishing around the whole island, following the government legislation in early 2012 which restricts the amount that can be fished and the times that people can fish. The marine parks will be strictly regulated by the Department of Fisheries who are also committed to the project.

Photos Socratous, Vice-Chairman of the Cyprus Dive Centre Association, said: “We are thrilled that Cyprus’ diving offering will be further improved through the creation of these five new marine parks. It is the Cyprus Dive Centre Association’s mission to promote awareness of the importance of our underwater eco-systems and we are committed to preserving and monitoring our sites. With the support of the Cyprus Tourism Organisation, the European Union and our Fisheries Department we are working towards an exciting future for diving in Cyprus.”