Protection Sought for World War I Ships

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tags: World War I, Ships

As the world commemorates the 100th anniversary of the start of the First World War this summer, members of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) met recently in Belgium to discuss how to protect the valuable underwater cultural heritage of the historic conflict. The organization will soon extend a 2001 convention in order to safeguard thousands more sites, including many World War I shipwrecks that are now threatened by salvage operations, looting and other brands of destruction.

The UNESCO Convention on the Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage, introduced in 2001, aimed to help member nations better protect shipwrecks, submerged ruins and other valuable, increasingly fragile, parts of their underwater heritage. The organization estimates that there are more than 3 million undiscovered shipwrecks scattered over the globe, including more than 12,500 sailing ships and war vessels lost at sea between 1824 and 1962 alone. With improved technology, these wrecks are becoming more accessible all the time, making them vulnerable to treasure hunters, commercial salvage operations and other types of looting.

The 2001 convention originally applied only to sites sunk more than 100 years ago. Now, as reported by BBC News, experts from 36 nations met last week in Bruges, Belgium to hear how the convention will soon be extended to protect thousands more sites. These include hundreds of ships sunk during the naval engagements fought during World War I, many of which are popular locations for recreational divers and for salvage companies looking to dismantle the wrecks. According to UNESCO’s Ulrike Guerin, protection under the convention “prevents the pillaging, which is happening on a very large scale, it prevents the commercial exploitation, the scrap metal recovery, and it will have regulations on the incidental impacts, such as the problem of trawlers going over World War I sites.”

Read entire article at History

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