Hunting New England Shipwrecks

Government Regulations

The famous American writer and revolutionary Thomas Paine once wrote "that government is best which governs least." Most of the wreck divers we know, think that's a good philosophy. Government regulation of shipwrecks is a hotly-debated issue between archaeologists and wreck divers. The fact that some government agencies (states and countries) declare most shipwrecks off limits to divers, rankles the sensibility of wreck divers. Many divers say that most wrecks are simply underwater junk piles that have no archaeological value, but are great recreational resources.  Many archaeologist, on the other hand, say that all wrecks potentially have archaeological value and need to be protected from possible damage by divers.

Recognizing that people on both sides of this issue may have some valid arguments, we feel that government regulations on shipwrecks should be sensitive to the desires of both groups. In the United States, the federal government has turned over responsibility for the regulation of shipwrecks to the individual states. Over the years, some states have developed shipwreck managment programs and /or laws, while others have none. The state of Massachusetts has a unique shipwreck managment program that enjoys popular support from both wreck divers and archaeologists. We feel that other states could benefit from developing shipwreck management programs similar to the Massachusetts one.

To learn more about shipwreck regulations, click on the links below to explore the various Websites.  To learn more about the Massaachusetts shipwreck program, visit the Massachusetts Board's site.

Massachusetts Board of U/W Archaeological Resources 
Vermont Underwater Historic Preserve (Lake Champlain) 
Submerged Cultural Resources Unit (National Park Service)

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Copyright 2001 by Dave Clancy
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