Underwater museum: how ‘Paolo the fisherman’ made the Med’s strangest sight

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In a bid to stop illegal trawling, an Italian fisherman persuaded sculptors to create huge marble artworks – then dropped them in the Mediterranean

As a child, Paolo Fanciulli was fascinated by underwater shipwrecks, particularly the fish and algae that lived in them. He became a fisherman in the Tuscan village of Talamone at 13 and still plies the waters at the age of 60 in his small boat, the Sirena. But in the past decade, his job has become harder, as trawling near the coast has been destroying the marine ecosystem.

The impact is devastating. “The nets are weighed down with heavy chains to be dragged on the sea bottom, so they uproot all the posidonia, the seagrass that is key to the Mediterranean ecosystem because sea bream, lobsters and red gurnards lay their eggs there,” he says.

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