Document Type

Internship Report

Publication Date

Fall 2013


Unlike land-based sources of cultural heritage, abandoned shipwrecks have been slow to receive protection under state and federal law. Yet shipwrecks are arguably more valuable than their land-based brethren as they provide unique, undisturbed links to the past and are “time capsules of unmatched historical interest.” In additional to their archeological and historical value, abandoned shipwrecks are highly sought after by treasure hunters and commercial salvors for their substantial economic value. This has led to the destruction of numerous culturally significant wrecks before proper archeological research techniques could be employed. Preserving our national historic resources should be a goal that our government actively pursues. The patchwork of legal principles that are currently applied to resolve disputes over the legal status of shipwrecks is unacceptable. There are better alternatives than the fragmented, disincentivized system advanced by the Abandoned Shipwrecks Act. This paper thoroughly analyzes the current legal regime governing the protection of submerged cultural resources and considers the advantages and disadvantages of existing law. Finally, several alternative policies are proposed for a streamlined management scheme that will incentivize exploration while protecting the unique cultural value.


Department: MAF

MPS Track: JD / CZM

Location: Not Specified

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