Little did Paolo Fanciulli know that when he would drop 39 large marble sculptures down to the bottom of the sea, not only would he be stopping illegal trawling but also his first step into the art world.
The 60-year-old practices sustainable fishing and “pescaturismo” or fishing tourism at his village of Talamone. He wakes up at dawn and heads of with his colleague, Francesco to fish. They cast shallow nets which leave the bottom of the seabed’s untouched.
From 2002-2005, he gathered the help of the Tuscan government and WWF-Italia to deploy a strategic formation of 126 underwater cement bollards to ruin any of the deep-sea trawling nets which he realised were rapidly destroying the fish stocks he grew up harvesting.
His next project would be similar, but a little interesting. He enlisted marble sculptures to solve the problem of fishing nets reaching the bottom of the sea. With the help of a childhood friend who had become a successful engineer, Fanciulli thought of a series of large marble sculptures, taken from the Carrara Quarry, a place where much of the marble was used by Michelangelo to create his artworks.
Initially, Fanciulli only asked for only two sculptures he received a hundred.
But who would sculpt them? And how would he find enough money to transport 10–20-ton blocks from North to South Tuscany?
Emily Young, considered Britain’s best living sculptor donated her time and effort towards the project. Her investment into the project cannot be seen anywhere in the world. This would only be seen by divers who would dip in the sea.
In May 2015, the first few blocks were lowered into the sea. Even though they cost thousands of dollars, another batch of 19 blocks was lowered down last summer.
An association was formed to take care of the sculptures in the sea. Ippolito Turco, the president of the association said, “We’ve managed to totally stop the illegal fishing in the area. Now we’re looking at extending the project along the coast to the north. We want to put more sculptures on the seafloor. It has proved to be very effective.”
How do the sculptures prevent illegal trawlers from fishing?
Italian laws bans trawling within 3 nautical miles of the coast, yet people illegally trawl at night. The underwater sculptures create both a physical barrier for nets and are placed 4 metres apart. The statues also help preserve the fish. So not only do the sculptures discourage illegal trawling, they have encouraged the growth of wildlife and fish by the coast.
For further projects, to raise the funding you can head to La Casa Dei Pesci, where you can donate as much as you want to. Artists looking to carve a block will post their ideas as a fundraiser, and all those who donate can contribute and gets gifts in return. Gifts include a dinner and a fishing trip with Paolo, paintings and many more.