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Revisiting the Relationship between Marine Scientific Research and the Underwater Cultural Heritage

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image of The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law

For many years there has been general acceptance that activities directed at shipwrecks and other forms of underwater cultural heritage (UCH) do not constitute marine scientific research (MSR) and therefore are not subject to regulation under Part XIII of the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982. However, given the controversial nature of the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage 2001 and the fact that it seems unlikely that it will gain widespread support (particularly among maritime States) in at least the short- to mid-term, serious consideration should be given to other potential mechanisms for regulating treasure salvage activity to ensure it complies with international archaeological standards. Perhaps the most attractive possibility in purely practical terms would be in some way to draw such activity within the regulatory regime for MSR. This article revisits the question of the relationship between MSR and UCH and explores one particular approach to the subject which may provide a way forward.

Affiliations: 1: Professor of Maritime Law, University of Nottingham UK


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