A Lochaber business, visited by the Earl of Wessex last week,has revealed plans for an ambitious community project to create the first artificial diving reef of its kind in Scotland in the Sound of Mull.
Owners Mark and Annabel Lawrence hosted the Royal visit to the Lochaline Dive Centre in Morvern, where Prince Edward unveiled a plaque to commemorate the occasion.
There was a huge turn out from the local community, and the reception at the pier included Gaelic singing from Lochaline Primary School pupils.
Mrs Lawrence said their Royal visitor was very interested in the unique conditions which make the west coast of Scotland a top destination for divers.
She also outlined proposals to create Scotland’s first artificial reef from a decommissioned naval vessel in the Sound of Mull.
Mrs Lawrence said: “His Royal Highness immediately recognised the potential economic and environmental benefits this could bring to the area.
There are 22 artificial reef projects of this kind across the world, but this would be the first in Scotland and only the second in the UK.
“The other British site is at Plymouth, and in under 10 years there have been 42,000 dives to HMS Scylla. This has brought £25 million into the local economy and the reef has already cultivated over 260 marine species.”
Mrs Lawrence established the Sound of Mull Artificial Reef Trust, or ‘SMART’, last year, to develop the idea as a community tourism project that could benefit the west coast areas of Oban, Lochaber and Mull.
With the help of Highlands and Islands Enterprise (HIE) and LEADER funding, the group has had a feasibility study carried out.
“The research shows that creating an artificial reef in the Sound of Mull will deliver benefits on many levels,” Mrs Lawrence commented.
“By being able to control its position we can create exceptional conditions for divers, and particularly for novice divers.