The 226.796-kilogram (500-pound) mermaid figure, crafted from crushed glass and cement, represents the first instalment to establish an underwater sculpture park.
It was unveiled during a tour and press conference held at the marine park on Saturday (October 23).
Executive Director of the marine park, Hugh Shim, said that the underwater attraction is a welcome addition to Montego Bay’s tourism product and will go a far way in enhancing marine biodiversity.
“Today, we are celebrating this project that we have undertaken with the Smilozone Foundation. It is the beginning of an underwater sculpture park consisting of two sites with sculptures that should act as new attractions for snorkelers, divers and glass-bottom boat tours. The intention is to add another [aspect] to the Montego Bay tourism product [as well as] take the strain from some of the popular reefs and dive sites,” he noted.
Mr Shim said that the underwater park is also intended to create an environmental solution to coral degradation. Within the next 10 to 15 years, the algae build-up and coral growth on the sculptures will attract marine life, thus enhancing the health of the reef and ecosystem.
He noted that the sculpture is also expected to attract school tours, a significant part of the park’s revenues but suspended due to the pandemic.
The sculpture, which is the first of its kind in Jamaica, was created by Robert “Toby” Grant, an environmental sculptor and educator. He received from his brothers Fitz Gerard Grant, Building Instructor, and Errol Grant, the project’s Logistics Manager.
Operations Manager for Smilozone Waste Management Limited, Laur-Ann Daley, said her company is pleased to partner with the Montego Bay Marine Park in installing the underwater sculpture.
She said that the initiative is in keeping with the company’s vision to promote sustainable solid waste reduction and management in Jamaica.
Negotiations are currently ongoing between Smilozone and Mr Grant for the possible commissioning of the other mermaid sculptures to be submerged in the marine park.
Councillor Dwight Crawford of the Spring Garden Division, who represented the Mayor of Montego Bay, Leroy Williams, at the unveiling, congratulated the partners for “coming to the rescue of the coral reef in the marine park”.
“It is well needed. My division is mostly coastal, and this initiative will bring attention to what happens on the seabed. We will start to focus on rebuilding so that the fishes can grow again and our marine life can move along,” he said.
The marine park encompasses the entire Montego Bay. It comprises 15.3 square kilometres, beginning at the high-tide mark on the land, and extending to the 100-metre depth at sea. The eastern boundary is Tropical Beach, adjacent to the Sangster International Airport, and the western border is Rum Bottle Bay, a little point close to the Great River.