Fishing & Shipwreck Heritage: Marine Archaeology’s Greatest Threat?

Sean A. Kingsley

IMG_20151024_0001For 250 years encrusted wonders have been turning up in fishermen’s nets: everything imaginable from prehistoric animal bones to priceless Roman statues. Fishing trawlers annually sweep an area equivalent in size to half the world’s continental shelves. Everything in the wake of these bulldozers of the deep is battered. A devastating trail of smashed shipwrecks runs from the North Sea to Malaysia.

The profound threat of the global fishing industry remains a black hole in marine archaeology, poorly understood and unmanaged. Fishing and Shipwreck Heritage is the first global analysis of the threat of bottom fishing to underwater cultural heritage, examining the diversity, scale and implications on endangered finds and sites. Throughout, the key question of whether it is too late to save the planet’s three million wrecks and how sustainable management is achievable are debated.

Available from Bloomsbury Academic, November 2015.


“We wouldn’t plough up Nineveh or bulldoze Hadrian’s Wall, but unwittingly we have left extraordinary marine archaeological treasures to the mercy of trawl net and dredge. This vitally important book makes a compelling and richly detailed case for their urgent protection.” –  Callum Roberts, Professor of Marine Conservation, University of York, UK.

“Shipwrecks are widely regarded by archaeologists as invaluable “time capsules,” preserving otherwise unobtainable data on aspects of the human past. In Fishing and Shipwreck Heritage, Sean Kingsley documents how the modern commercial fishing industry is ripping these precious capsules apart, spreading their contents far and wide and exposing them to total destruction. He also documents a conspiracy of silence among industries, governments, heritage authorities and nautical archaeologists themselves, allowing us to turn a blind eye to the destruction. Fishing and Shipwreck Heritage is a call to action that must not be ignored.” –  Thomas F. King, Senior Archaeologist, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery (TIGHAR), Silver Spring Maryland, USA.

“A well-considered and thorough piece of research on a problem that is hidden from sight (and the minds) of the majority of people. It provides a compelling argument for an urgent consideration of the effects of fishing upon our underwater cultural heritage, and will be of interest to those working in the fields of archaeology, maritime heritage and the marine environment.” –  Ruth H. Thurstan, Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Queensland, Australia.

“The author has had the courage to face the question of the dramatic impact of fishing on the ancient shipwrecks, analytically arguing the quality and the quantity of a phenomenon which is much more devastating than any other form of impact on this cultural resource. The book should touch the consciences of the institutions which can no more ignore one of the more neglected and troublesome problems of the management of the archaeological heritage.” –  Carlo Beltrame, Post-doctoral Researcher, University of Venice, Italy.


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