What are the immediate Main Threats to our Underwater Cultural Heritage?
Besides coastal construction, pipelines and cables, off-shore exploitation, pollution and the sheer force of the sea the two main threats are:
1. The Trawling fleets that cover an area the size from India to Brazil every year leaving a trail of total destruction - wreck sites are not spared.
2. Looting by unscrupulous fisherman and treasure hunters; The black market sale of ancient artefacts is a thriving business with annual earnings of 6 billion US-dollars, only surpassed by illegal drug and arms sales. A pro-active approach is needed to slow this down.
UNESCO's UCH Secretariat leaves to the States the full burden of financing a very costly responsibility;
UNESCO's UCH Secretariat strictly forbids the sale of any artefact or commodity from wreck sites even if a State does not agree, promoting a passive in-situ approach;
UNESCO's UCH Secretariat is playing directly in to the hands of looters and leave the wrecks exposed to environmental hazards. First studies show that the damage UCH has suffered in countries which ratified the Convention is by far greater then in countries where private initiative projects helped to develop a pro-active approach saving UCH.
UNESCO's UCH Secretariat has with its 2001 Convention built a gigantic Potemkin Village pretending it can solve the problem with its zero tolerance and over-the-top purist views. In fact UNESCO is asking its member states to bury the head in the sand and pretend that in-situ protection will solve the matter – “somehow” over time!
We need a “The Third Way”, which is neither State Archaeology nor Treasure Hunting - Commercial Archaeology - a Sustainable Model allowing for a Pro-Active Policy towards the Protection of UCH.
BUT, how to pay for such a pro-active approach?
Typically ships carry cargo which is highly repetitive. A museum will only need a small number of each of these objects for a complete and representative collection. Only the best preserved objects of each of the cargo items go on public display. The sale of the remaining cargo to fund a pro-active protection is the only pragmatic compromise!
The Commercial Archaeology Approach for UCH allows for Funding and thereby permits: