Wreck Watch Statement

This statement (WreckWatchBottomFishingStatement-Dec2015) calls on the governments of the world to recognise the profound threats of bottom fishing on the Marine Archaeological Critical Resource (MACR). It appeals to all stakeholders from divers to heritage managers to end the climate of denial and to respect the non-finite character of the resource.

Governments and heritage managers are entreated to:

  1. Acknowledge the reality of irreversible damage from fishing gear and the existence of a problem needing critical attention.
  1. Assess, quantify and understand the scale of the problem of fishing-induced damage at the national level.
  1. Promote awareness of the negative implications of uncontrolled bottom fishing on unique underwater cultural heritage, education potential and human knowledge.
  1. Examine and propose management options and assess their effectiveness.
  1. Explore synergies and opportunities between environmental and heritage protection.
  1. Interface with the fishing community to improve respect, understanding and consensus about practical management approaches.
  1. Identify means of improving the evidence and research base to 
negotiate better outcomes for archaeological site management 
within national and international protocols and legal frameworks.
  1. Seek changes to legislative frameworks to enhance protection.
  1. Identify national Red Lists of unique wrecks endangered by bottom fishing for which protection is a crucial priority.
  1. Promote global awareness of the Marine Archaeological Critical Resource.
  1. Provide sufficient resources to facilitate sustainable protection.

Governments need to be flexible when considering practical management options. They must focus on sites with the most unique and important historical and evidential significance (the Marine Archaeological Critical Resource). Protection options may range from site avoidance to enforcing exclusion zones (video monitoring or concrete block emplacement), and equally preservation by record and removing material at risk from harm’s way.

Many near-shore archaeological sites have reached the point of no return as bottom trawling flattens maritime landscapes. Around 40% of the world’s trawling grounds lie in waters deeper than 200 metres. As trawlers work increasingly further from shore and deeper in search of catches, the cycle of destruction will start anew.

The following archaeologists, marine conservationists and biologists endorse this statement. We call on the world’s governments to ensure the protection of the Marine Archaeological Critical Resource, endangered by bottom fishing, as humanity’s obligation to the public trust and the safeguarding of irreplaceable cultural assets:

The following archaeologists, marine conservationists and biologists endorse this statement. We call on the world’s governments to ensure the protection of the Marine Archaeological Critical Resource, endangered by bottom fishing, as humanity’s obligation to the public trust and the safeguarding of irreplaceable cultural assets:

Signatories (in alphabetical order):

  • Lawrence Babits, George Washington Distinguished Professor, Director of Maritime Studies, Department of History, East Carolina University, USA
  • George Bass, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Texas A&M University; Founder and Chairman Emeritus, The Institute of Nautical Archaeology, Texas A&M University, USA
  • Dr Carlo Beltrame, Lecturer of Maritime Archaeology & Methodologies of Archaeological Research, Università Ca’ Foscari, Venice, Italy
  • John D. Broadwater, Ph.D., President, Spritsail Enterprises (marine archaeology consulting), USA
  • Robert Cembrola, Curator of Maritime History & Adjunct Professor, Naval War College Museum, Newport, Rhode Island, USA
  • Dr Katerina Dellaporta, Director, The Byzantine and Christian Museum, Athens, Greece
  • Dr Michael Flecker, Managing Director of Maritime Explorations, Singapore; Associate Fellow of the Singapore Institute of Southeast Asian Studies
  • Alex Hildred, Curator, Mary Rose Trust, UK
  • Prof. Richard Hodges, OBE, President, The American University of Rome, Italy
  • Dr Thomas F. King, Senior Archaeologist, The International Group for Historic Aircraft Recovery, USA
  • Dr Sean A. Kingsley, Director, Wreck Watch Int., London, UK
  • Dr Claudio Lozano Guerra-Librero, Coastal Geology & Water Resources Investigation Group, Faculty of Experimental Sciences, Universidad de Huelva, Spain
  • Emeritus Professor Andrew R.G. Price, FLS,School of Life Sciences, University of Warwick, Coventry; Honorary Professor, Environment Department, University of York, UK
  • Callum Roberts, Professor of Marine Conservation, Environment Department, University of York, UK
  • Sir Tony Robinson, Actor & Television Presenter (Time Team), UK
  • Sten Sjostrand, Director, Nanhai Marine Archaeology, Malaysia
  • Dr Ruth Thurstan, Postdoctoral Research Fellow, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, Australia
  • Prof. Sebastiano Tusa, Soprintendenza del Mare, Sicily
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