Art & Conservation

How Art Helps Conservation

Oceans teem with microscopic organisms that are constantly drifting down towards the sea bed, which attach to and colonise on any hard secure surface. This is now natural reefs are created. Only 10 – 15% of the sea bed has a solid enough substratum to allow reefs to form naturally.

In order to increase the number of reefs worldwide, artificial reefs have been created using durable, secure and environmentally sensitive materials. These reefs have successfully increased overall reef biomass, which, naturally supports entire marine ecosystems. An array of marine life such as colourful fish, turtles, sharks, sea urchins, corals, sponges, hydroids and algae have been attached to these new habitats, which also provide enclosed spaces for sea creatures to breed or take refuge. Another benefit seen over with the introduction of artificial reefs is that they have lifted the pressure off natural reefs which, over the past few decades, have been over-fished and over-visited. By diverting attention to artificial reefs, natural reefs have now been given a greater chance to repair and to regenerate on their own accord. These complimentary reef sites offer an important area for marine biologists to document and monitor a reef development from inception. Some of Jason deCaires Taylor’s projects have seen marine biomass increase by over 400% on once deserted sections of sea bed.

On a global level, Taylor’s works have reached an audience of over 2 billion over the past 16 years, opening a virtual portal or window to the underwater realm. By incorporating art into his artificial reef design, Taylor attracts the necessary attention our desperate oceans need by illustrating the importance to urgently conserve them. Many of the sculptures are aimed at opening up debates about our relationship to ours oceans, the Anthropocene and highlighting our inherent apathy or denial.

On a local level, Taylor’s works oblige local governments to consider their coastlines. In Grenada, the sculpture park was instrumental in the creation of a large scale marine protected area (MPA). In the Bahamas, an oil refinery that had been leaking oil into the sea for over 10 years and it was forced into preventative measures after tourists coated in oil after visiting Ocean Atlas attracted international media.

As most of Taylor’s projects are centralised in small areas, entrance fees are charged to visitors. This crucial revenue is then put towards conservation projects and helps fund marine park rangers who are able to monitor and protect the coastlines. Admissions and donations for entering the museums also provide a crucial role in providing revenue for marine conservation initiatives and alternative employment for local communities.

Taylor`s projects aim to underpin sustainable, eco-friendly tourism, promoting cultural and environmental awareness, with the hope that more tourists may begin to reconceptualise our beaches as more than sunny paradises but living and breathing ecosystems. By predominately using local models for the life casts Taylor also aims to empower local communities and provide an important icon of residents standing in defense of their oceans.

Jason deCaires Taylor Underwater Sculpture Coral Growth