Britain urged to sign up to shipwreck treaty to protect underwater heritage

24 Mar 2014 6:46 AM | Anonymous

Britain urged to sign up to shipwreck treaty to protect underwater heritage

Academics and experts call on government to sign Unesco treaty to protect lost vessels from treasure hunters
The wreck of the SS Gairsoppa, a 412-foot steel-hulled British steamship that was sunk off Galway, Ireland by a German U-boat in 1941. Photograph: Odyssey Marine Exploration

Britain's rich maritime legacy is under threat from commercial treasure hunters who are accused by experts of plundering and destroying the nation's underwater heritage.

A group of leading archaeologists and historians warn that unless the government intervenes to protect scores of historically significant wrecks lying beyond the country's territorial waters, sites including the graves of those lost at sea could be exploited and lost for good.

On Monday the group, which includes leading scholars from Oxford University and the British Museum, will call on the Foreign Office, the Ministry of Defence and the Department for Culture, Media and Sport to sign up to a United Nations treaty on protecting underwater remains.

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