British Virgin Islands launches ‘Beyond the Reef’ marine project

Last week, the British Virgin Islands (BVI) sank three disused airplanes – which have been creatively turned into the shape of sharks – and the islands’ old Willy T Ship, into the ocean in an attempt to create a diverse new artificial reef system.

This brainwave is the creation of Beyond the Reef, a unique group of collaborators, varying from underwater engineers to a metal sculptor, brought together by their passion for the ocean and its uncertain future.

With the support of the local BVI community, Beyond the Reef is determined to make an artificial coral reef system that makes a difference, both to the marine life and to the local community through a charitable project.

The Beyond the Reef team responsibly sourced three abandoned airplanes which underwent a miraculous metamorphosis into sharks, lurking at the depths of the seabed, just waiting to be discovered by intrigued divers. The metal sharks are also joined by the iconic old Willy T Ship, a famed floating bar, which has always held a special place in the hearts of both locals and tourists alike.

The team has worked solidly over several months to strip the vessels of all hazardous materials and has created cavernous holes in their surfaces to create handy deep dive access.

The Beyond the Reef team has put the wreckages, left behind from the devastation of Hurricane Irma, to good use rather than being disposed of in a costly and ecologically damaging way. In addition, these artistic installations will have a hugely positive impact on both locals and visitors by generating both increased tourism in the area and creating revenue for the local community.

The BVI dive companies have committed to asking each diver who explores these new dive sites to donate $5, which will go back into the community through an initiative that teaches local children to swim. This pledge will shed light on both the importance of swim safety as well as respect for the ocean and threats that loom over its future.

These donations are at the forefront of the passion driving the Beyond the Reef project forward. After discovering that less than 1/3 of children living in the BVI know how to swim, the Beyond the Reef team hopes to have every child swimming in the next 10 years.

Mr. Rhodni A. Skelton, Deputy Director of Tourism in the BVI explains:

We believe that these artificial reefs, created from abandoned wreckages by an inspiring and passionate group of individuals will become a valuable tourism asset for the Territory and brings a fresh new look to our dive product. I am ecstatic about the chosen charitable cause to which funds generated by the project will be directed, that of teaching BVI children to swim.  This is not only an important skill for living in the British Virgin Islands but a foundational skill for any number of jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities in the marine sector.”

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