The world's largest underwater museum is underway in Cancun, Mexico, in an effort to both divert tourists from coral reefs and to create artificial reefs to attract and sustain marine life. The first four life-size figurative sculptures were installed in November; nearly 400 sculptures made of pH-neutral concrete will eventually be submerged. “It all happens rather quickly—within two weeks, we will see green algae,” artist Jason deCaires Taylor, who is in charge of the project, told the BBC. “Then within a few months, juvenile algae will appear and the project will progress from there.”
Taylor created a similar installation in Grenada's National Marine Park with 65 sculptures visible to divers, snorkelers and by glass-bottomed boat. According to the artist's website, Moiliniere Bay suffered considerable storm damage in recent years and the placement of an artificial structure has provided a new base for marine life to proliferate.
As well as bringing more tourism dollars to an economy beleaguered by the recession and scares of H1N1, officials in Cancun are hoping for a similar environmental benefit in their waters. Quoted in an article in the UK's Daily Mail, Jaime Gonzalez, director of Cancun's West Coast National Park, says, "If they swim near the corals, the divers with little experience might kick them with a fin or hit them with the oxygen tank. Before it was declared a park, the tourists even climbed up the corals and walked on top of them, breaking and shattering them."