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Sea Environment Pollution Nice Mediterranean

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French tyre sea sanctuary found to be polluting Mediterranean

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The seafront at Nice in the south of France DR

A 1980s experiment that saw 25,000 car tyres dumped into the crystal-clear waters of the Mediterranean to create a sanctuary for sealife off the French coast is being cleaned up after it was found to be polluting.


Since the start of last week, divers and a specially equipped boat with lifting gear have been fishing out hundreds of the old loops of rubber about 500 metres (1,600 feet) from an exclusive coastline between the towns of Cannes and Antibes.

The original vision, backed by local French authorities at the time and fishermen, was that the tyres would become populated by coral and other sea creatures in a conservation area where fishing was off limits.

In France, the idea of a "tyre reef" was tried only here, but a local academic working on the clean-up operation said authorities in other countries, particularly the United States, had tried the same failed idea.

"We hoped (back in the 1980s) that we could restore aquatic life there, but it didn't work," the deputy mayor of Antibes, Eric Duplay told AFP. "It turns out that the tyre reef was not a prolific place for biomass."

Denis Genovese, the head of an association of local fishermen, confirmed that most Mediterranean lifeforms had shunned the idea of living inside mad-made products manufactured out of rubber, resins, oil and other chemicals.

A study in 2005 by researchers at the University of Nice showed that the tyres were leaking toxic chemicals into the environment, including heavy metals, which are a threat to human life.

Authorities were also worried that the tyres could degrade further, nearly 40 years after they sank to the seabed, and break up into smaller pieces which would be a risk for nearby seagrass meadows.