In recent years in Cyprus there has been growing pressure in general towards more protection for wildlife, coastal areas and national parks. Wether it be the quiet sandy beach areas that need to be left clear of any development for nesting Turtles, the natural habitat of the Akamas National Park that needs protection from more buildings or marine reserves that need ongoing protection from illegal fishing these natural habitats are now more than ever being protected by local authorities.
Good news for the diving industry in Cyprus is that we have an ongoing programme of either making new artificial protected marine reserves or declaring new reserves in a number of natural areas.
The Zenobia wreck was one of the first protected marine reserves and the area is indeed off limits to any fishing. As a result the wreck is home to it's own healthy eco system with a variety of abundant marine life which seems to get better and better year after year. The marine life here as a result is also generally not afraid of humans so divers can get great close ups and often dive in close proximity to many shoals of fish.
Following on from the Zenobia the authorities in Cyprus have sank a succession of wrecks as part of a programme to increase diving tourism. Each in turn have been declared protected marine reserves to varying levels of success. The most successful in terms of protection is the marine reserve in Limassol which is very visible and well policed. There is a wide area of large buoys marking this large marine resrve that fishing vessels do respect as they have seen their own catches increase while fishing outside of the protected zone.
Inside the Limassol protected area there are two wrecks 200m apart with a large artificial reef system in between. These were sank 6 years ago and the development of the marine life and eco system here since has been dramatic. We dived the Limassol wrecks for a year after they were sank but the marine life here didn't really get established for about 18 months, but after that period it exploded with large shoals of all sorts of hunting predators and smaller species of all types and sizes. The Limassol wrecks are a great example of what can be achieved with these protected marine reserves and can only continue to increase in terms of marine species and numbers of fish.
There are about 20 protected areas now and this will only continue and develop as benefits are felt from the extra diver tourism and higher fishing catches outside of the reserves.
Another excellent addition is the area off the northern coast of the Akamas National Park which reaches St Georges Island. This is already a top dive site with an abundance of marine life and with it's extra protection as a marine reserve this area could see some amazing development in terms of the numbers and range of fish.
In December 2019 there are another 2 wrecks being sank in another protected marine reserve and one of those is almost 70 metres in length.
As these developments become more secure and protected, and as their eco systems develop, Cyprus will continue to grow as a top diving destination.