BVI News

Branson upbeat about new tourism venture in BVI

The BVI Art Reef under construction. Photographer: Owen Buggy

The BVI Art Reef under construction. Photographer: Owen Buggy

The BVI Tourist Board is upbeat about the economic prospects of a dive site being established locally by British billionaire Sir Richard Branson, who said a World War II ship will be placed under water as an artificial reef to be used as part of the dive site.

“Like us, the BVI Tourist Board is confident this new dive site will boost the local economy by putting the BVI on the world map as a top dive destination,” Sir Richard said while noting that the project will also help to rehabilitate heavily over-fished marine populations.

“A special focus will be on bringing back vulnerable species of Grouper, such as the Goliath Grouper,” added Sir Richard – the owner of Necker and Mosquito Islands in the British Virgin Islands (BVI).

He further said: “I’m confident the BVI Art Reef will be among the most unique and meaningful dive sites in the world and, in turn, will help to inspire future ocean conservationists in my own backyard.”

Sir Richard, who announced the project in a blog on his website, explained that the idea was formulated when he and a group brainstormed at Necker Island how to create the ‘most amazing’ artificial reef.

“We are planning to sink the former USS YO-44, a ship that served and saved lives in Pearl Harbour during World War II. This historic vessel was primed to be scrapped for metal before Owen Buggy – former marine mechanic and photographer on Necker Island – identified it and the team dreamed up this project. The ship will form the centrepiece of a unique new dive site called The Maverick BVI Art Reef.”

“It will include a large-scale art sculpture of an 80-foot Kraken. This will double as a human interest feature for divers and a coral out-planting platform, which will kick-start a thriving reef ecosystem through innovative and effective coral restoration techniques. I’m sure it will be one of the most unique dive sites in the world,” Sir Richard further said.

He stated that Unite BVI, which is his non-profit foundation, has partnered with other groups to get the project off the ground and under the ocean.

Sir Richard did not give a specific time-line.

But he further said: “This reef will allow people to experience the wonder of the ocean and its species up close, while having the time of their lives. That way, what they learn will stay with them and affect them deeply, and hopefully turn into more action to conserve the ocean.”

Sir Richard’s website, in the meantime, quoted Marine Biologist and Environmental Consultant Clive Petrovic as saying the planning process for the project has been detailed.

“This project breaks new ground here in the BVI… In my years in the Territory, this is the first time a proposed ship sinking has undergone such a detailed planning process… I have no doubt this will be a successful undertaking that will set the standards and will be used as a guide for all future artificial reef projects in the BVI,” Petrovic said.

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