Experts call on UK government to sign UNESCO treaty

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Experts call on UK government to sign UNESCO treaty

April 21, 2014 - 21:01

A group of leading archaeologists and historians urge Britain to join 45 other nations in ratifying the 2001 UNESCO convention on the protection of the underwater cultural heritage

A contemporary WW1 German postcard showing the sinking HMS Aboukir and HMS Hogue

In a report submitted to foreign secretary William Hague, experts warn that unless it signs up to the treaty, Britain will be largely incapable of protecting wrecks lying beyond its waters. The report argues that a number of threats including natural erosion, damage from fishing vessels and illegal looting mean that "simply being hidden in deep water no longer offers protection".

The report also slams Britain's position on commercial exploitation of shipwrecks as "ambiguous, attracting financial speculation". It said ratification of the Unesco treaty, which states that underwater cultural heritage cannot be commercially exploited, would send a strong signal to dissuade treasure hunters.

The Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage is a treaty adopted on 2 November 2001 by the General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. [1] It aims at protection of "all traces of human existence having a cultural, historical or archaeological character", which have been under water for over 100 years.[1]

As of February 2014, 45 states are party to the convention including several historically seafaring states that previously shared British concerns but have since signed up.

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