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Underwater museum

'Museo Atlántico' - Atlantic Museum

Introduction

The Atlantic Museum project aspires to create a strong visual dialogue between art and nature. Designed with a conservationist approach, it is made up of 300 environmental friendly cement sculptures which form a huge artificial reef that helps marine biomass flourish and facilitates species reproduction off the coast of Lanzarote, Spain.

CACT, a local public entity experienced in combining art and nature, has conceived this Europe-unique underwater museum with Brittish eco-sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor. The sculptures, distributed in ten facilities at a 12 meters depth, reflect contemporaneity and intends to make us reflect on the use of natural resources.

Since the first pieces were deployed in January 2016, marine biomass at the area is 50 times greater and other ecological rates, such as richness and species abundance, have seen an increase in more than a 200% by providing shelter and food to a complete reef ecosystem.

The admission prices to the museum perform a crucial role, generating profits for a network of diving centers and adjacent businesses and creating alternative employment around a sustainable activity. So far, 33 out of 37 diving centers on the island have been certified to offer this diving experience by including quality procedures in their management, what has supposed a positive impact in the diving sector.

In addition, 2% of the deposits generated by the museum are given over to research and to raise awareness regarding the richness of species and seabed on the island, with the aim of putting value in the Lanzarote underwater platform.

Description of the destination or original product

CACT (Centres of Art, Culture and Tourism) is the main tourist benchmark in Lanzarote, a network of museums created to protect the natural environment and experience the beauty of its unique landscape. This entity is the main economic engine of the island and it is based on the idea of promoting sustainable development in Lanzarote, based on the conservation and preservation area declared a Reserve of the Biosphere by UNESCO.

The harmony between art and nature constitutes the pillar of the CACT philosophy, who was born with the opening of 'Jameos del Agua', a partially collapse of a volcanic tube which turned into an Art, Culture and Tourism Centre thanks to the intervention of famous local artist César Manrique in 1966. In his fifty years of history, CACT has learnt not only to apply this philosophy to its others museums but also to transmit it to local population, who is very sensitive to this binomial.

Process that led recognition that change was necessary

The ultraperiferic context of the Canary Islands in the European Union is a determining factor in the development of large scale projects. The main economic activity in the region lays on the third sector, especially on tourism, for this reason the islands need to foster sustainable tourism projects to adapt their economy to the fight against Global Warming and Climate Change.

Despite being in an isolated region, CACT has been able to run the first underwater art museum in Europe, creating an innovative product which benefits the island in a social, economic and environmental point of view, cornerstone of any sustainable project.

Process that facilitated change

Since 2001 CACT celebrates an Art Biennial to keep alive this idea born years ago, where artists from all around the world, as Jason deCaires Taylor, are invited to show their works. The biennial celebrated in 2013 was the starting point of this project, when we first met the artist and his underwater works and considered he could work in a new underwater museum.

The project became real on January 2016, when the first 60 sculptures were installed on the sea bed. After authorising the first diving centres and guides, the museum opened its doors the 2nd of March of 2016. From that moment until January 2017 'Museo Atlántico' worked in a pre-exploitation period. Today the museum is totally completed and its 300 pieces can be enjoyed.

Implementation

Museo Atlántico is 100% public capital project. An 85% comes from the benefits generated by CACT while the other 15% are European Funds destinated for the region.

The approach from the very first moment was that the already existing diving centres in the island were in charge of managing the visit. The role of CACT has consisted on creating an operators ecosystem with a double objective; to standarise the visit and to improve the quality of centres by auditing them.

Passing the audits is a minimum standard. In adition, diving operators also need to comply with the rules established by the museum in order to respect marine life in the area and to guarantee the best and safest experience to divers.

CACT charges for the entry fee (from 8,00 to 12,00€) but the rest of services, such as diving equipment, transport, guide and training (when needed) depend on the diving operators, that use an online reservation system to book visits to the museum.

At the moment the museum is working to monitor the area with scientific equipments which on a next stage will make data accesible to researchers from all around the world. Components of this technological set are yet to be defined, but according to experts the region lacks in this sort of stations which could provide useful data to fight Climate Change.

Success/failure story

According to a report made by the agency Porter Novelli in April 2017, more of 975 features in press, radio, television and the internet have been published at a national and international level since the first deployment in January 2016 took place. These publications have reached an audience of more than 1063 million of people and it is estimated that its cost in publicity would have been over 71 million of euros.

The impact has also been noticed in the growing diving industry, which has seen an increase of a 48% of divers in a year period (last data from 2016). Since the creation of Museo Atlántico, 5 new diving centres have opened its doors in Lanzarote, which already gathers one third of all diving centres in the Canary Islands. In regards to diving instructors, the museum has helped to improve their conditions as a working contract is a must to work as a guide.

Although the museum opened in a trial phase during its first 10 months, more than 14,300 divers have enjoyed this activity so far. Many recording teams have also shown interest in using the museum as a location for professional audiovisual projects, which has led to the development of ten diferent artistic creations on site.

The first environmental project, which consists on a seegrass (Cymodocea nodosa) repopulation at the museum site has given its first steps. Experts from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria will start soon to grow this important see-grass in their labs. Seagrass meadows have high biological productivity and are rich, biodiverse habitats.

Company info

Name of institution: E.P.E.L – C.A.C.T

Location: Lanzarote Island, Canary Islands, Spain.

Official homepagewww.cactlanzarote.com

Telephone:  0034 901 200 300

E-mailinfo@centrosturisticos.com

 

Photo credit: CACT Lanzarote / Jason deCaires Taylor
Photo credit: CACT Lanzarote / Jason deCaires Taylor

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