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Underwater Sculptures Sink Illegal Trawling

Updated: Sep 15, 2021

Six years ago the first giant marble sculpture was lowered to the sea floor off the coast of Tuscany.

In total, 39 have been placed along a 10 mile stretch of seabed, all thanks to the original idea of a local fisherman, Paolo Fanciulli. His plan was to stop illegal trawling and allow sealife to flourish again. His creative idea has been so successful that there are now plans to position more sculptures on the seabed further north along the coast.

Emily Young, a British sculptor who contributed two 20-tonne works to the project, says: "The problem was that vast dredging trawlers were operating illegally along the coast, tearing up the seabed and the seagrass meadows, destroying everything. The idea of the sculptures is that they snag the trawlers' nets, which are very expensive to replace."

Populations of snapper, bream, red mullet and other species have all bounced back since the sculptures were placed along the seabed. "Even the lobsters are back – we hadn't seen them for 35 years," Fanciulli told The Telegraph.

A pod of dolphins has even established itself in the large bay off the town of Talamone.

The sculptures are made of huge chunks of marble which were donated by the owner of a quarry at Carrara in Tuscany, in the mountains where Michelangelo sourced his marble. The underwater sculptures are not just tackling illegal dredging - they also form a marine sculpture park. At a depth of 8m, they are too far down for most snorkellers but can easily be explored by scuba divers.

And, in an amusing twist, Emily Young says: "I like to think of the archaeologists of the future, a thousand years from now, coming across the sculptures and thinking perhaps that they are the remains of an ancient civilisation."


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