The Belize Sea Goddess is latest Living Sculpture in the Sea project by The Marine Foundation and is their first for Belize and in the Western Hemisphere. The Eco art reef is created in collaboration with Roberts Grove Beach Resort, Placencia and local environmental group, SEA, Southern Environment Agency and will be installed during National Reef Week in Silk Caye Marine Reserve on March, Saturday 12th.

Designed by esteemed artist and Foundation’s founder, Celia Gregory and inspired by the ancient feminine symbol of fertility; the Sea Goddess was created with a local team. The artificial reef sculpture will become a living artwork, evolving over time, providing habitat for fish and coral and an emblem of nurturing and protection. This Collaborative project represents a positive and creative step in the protection of Belize’s marine habitat.

Belize is blessed with nature’s bounty perhaps the best being the Belize Barrier Reef Reserve System part of the Meso-American Barrier Reef System encompassing three coral Atolls and extensive back reef formations providing refuge for some of the last remaining spawning aggregations of endangered/threatened finfish such as the last remaining spawning aggregations of Nassau Grouper in the Caribbean. Local fisherfolk communities have utilized these areas for hundreds of years. The Marine Foundation takes great consideration in working closely with local expertise and infrastructure and ensures the artworks are positioned carefully to ensure no damage occurs to existing habitat and provides visibility to both guests & locals alike. SEA has successfully completed permission processes and we are thrilled the Sea Goddess will be placed within the Silk Caye Marine Reserve.

Our work and the installation of underwater Eco art helps communities and Local environment groups like SEA manage their marine resources at the same time support the marine garden sanctuary that is both an Eco-tourism destination and a marine protected area. Further sculptures can involve local artists creating further economic growth and local ownership. The implementation of community-led marine management strategies including no-take /replenishment zones, sustainable tourism and effective resource management around natural resources such as the Belize Barrier Reef is at the heart of all TMF projects.

Seas & Oceans have been a vital food source since the birth of mankind, we depend on their health, well-being and bounty; yet marine eco-systems all over the world are in rapid decline as trawling, construction, agricultural ‘run-off’, overfishing; Illegal, unreported & unregulated, all continue to deplete & degrade the Belizean Marine ecosystem affecting the health & fecundity of all species not ‘just’ commercially important ones. If we do not reverse these trends we will all suffer the consequences of our neglect.

The Marine Foundation’s creative, innovative approach to habitat restoration enables highly effective localized marine sustainability, engaging an international audience & galvanizing people from a wide variety of backgrounds & disciplines towards community based restoration and preservation initiatives & can only benefit species & stakeholders. We can all be part of the solution to marine habitat loss empowering local primary stakeholder’s ownership in restoration initiatives ensuring a healthy ocean for all future generations.

Pemuteran, Indonesia is a bay in NW Bali; just ten years ago their coral reef was devastated by illegal fishing practices and bleaching. The local community embarked on an innovative artificial reef project and enforced fishing restrictions of zones and equipment permitted banning gill nets, spearguns and dynamite, yes dynamite!

In 2009, the Marine Foundation started to work with Karang Lestari; the local managing NGO to bring a new creative aspect to their existing successful artificial reef program & the Coral Goddess was conceived and installed. There are now over 60 artificial reef covered in coral. The surrounding coral garden benefits from being within the protection zone and the numbers of fish and species increase annually. Surveys conducted show that 40 % of the tourists visiting the region came because of the restoration project & vowing to return.


Marine Foundation installs underwater sculpture at Silk Caye Marine Reserve

By Celia Gregory of The Marine Foundation

Last year The Marine Foundation started their adventure in Belize, when  invited by a group of Dangriga fishermen to create and install an underwater sculpture. We have installed a number of sculptures in Asia but this would be our first in the Caribbean. We were quickly introduced to Roberts Grove Beach Resort who became our partner sponsor and through a collaboration with Southern Environmental Association (SEA), Silk Cayes Marine Reserve was chosen as the installation location.

The one ton sculpture has been waiting patiently in the Roberts Grove workshop since last May, waiting on permissions to sink and selecting the best site. Captain William led the technical journey of getting the sculpture from land into sea. A truck lifted her from her place  of creation onto the boat. On Sunday, March 13th, we took The Silk Sea Goddess on her maiden voyage, strapped onto the deck of the Dorado.

The weather was kind to us with only lightly choppy waves. We anchored up at South Silk Caye and  joined Tamba, SEA’s park ranger and Marisha, Dive guide for some last minute fun photos with the goddess. We had prepared  a good strategy over several days, however I  was feeling nervous about the sink.

I put on my dive equipment  and prepared myself to go under, for two reason; one I could not bear the pressure of watching the goddess going over the edge of the boat. Secondly I needed to be there under the water welcoming her to her new home. I had imagines of guiding her down, although the reality was very different.

In was all over in under 10 seconds and she disappeared into a cloud of sand. As I swam over to her, I was excited to see her emerge. She was upright, in positiion and unharmed!

The Buoys we had attached to the body gave  the drag we hoped for, keeping the sculpture upright, I was thrilled. I knew we had prepared and I trusted my team but the truth was this had not been done before. There is always a moment of complete surrender to what will be!

The Silk Sea Goddess sits at a depth of 15 feet and is easily accessible from the island, so can be enjoyed by both snorkelers and SCUBA divers. She represents an ancient global feminine symbol for nurturing, life and protection. Created in concrete, a material frequently used for the construction of artificial reefs which are  man-made structures that  create habitat for coral and fish.

Having snorkelled around the caye and seen the vibrant marine life, I feel happy that she has such a wonderful home and can add to the underwater experience for visitors to Silk Cayes.

Photos by Annelise Hagan