THOUSANDS of old car tyres have been fished from the Mediterranean off the coast of the Côte d’Azur after a decades-old project to create an artificial reef off the French Riviera proved a failure.
Authorities had dumped the tyres into the Bay of Antibes, off Vallauris Golfe-Juan, in the 1980s in a bid to offer fish and coral a new home. The plan followed similar much larger scale schemes in America, notably off the coast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Antibes was not the only location where tyres were dumped in the sea. Le Monde reports that there are currently some 90,000m3 of these fake reefs in French waters, of which 32,000m3 can be found off the Languedoc-Roussillon coast and 54,000m3 off Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur.
But the idea has proved a disaster. Fish and most other sea life ignored the tyre reefs. The weather and strong sea currents broke them up, crushing coral and plant life, while environmentalists claimed they released toxic hydrocarbons into the waters.
Elodie Garidou of France’s Agence des Aires Marines Protégées (AMP), told Le Monde: “Things didn’t work out as had been imagined at the time.”
In 2010, agency decided to take them back, starting with a test batch of 2,500 that had been put in the waters off Antibes. A team of six divers tied together up to 30 tyres at a time, which were then winched up to a boat.
The last of the first batch was recovered from the seabed off Antibes and winched to the vessel on May 12 - the day before the glittering opening of the Cannes Film Festival.
“It took time to get the necessary permissions and the money to launch tenders. We had a pretty short window to finish this operation as we had to finish by the Cannes Film Festival,” Mme Garidou said.