Protection of Underwater Cultural Heritage

© I. Radic-Rossi/UNESCO
Site protection by a metal cage in Croatia

The underwater cultural heritage faces a wide array of threats and negative impacts that endanger its preservation. Ever since Jacques Cousteau and Emile Gagnan invented the aqualung in 1942-43, allowing the reach of greater depths for scientists and archaeologist, but also for treasure hunters and salvage explorers, underwater cultural heritage is increasingly accessible. Since then, looting of the underwater archaeological sites and destruction of their contexts have increased rapidly and threaten to deprive humanity of this heritage. 

Concerned by the destruction of submerged heritage, UNESCO Member States adopted in 2001 the UNESCO Convention on the Protection of the Underwater Cultural Heritage.The protection of underwater cultural heritage is at the heart of this Convention, together with public enjoyment and the fight against commercial exploitation, wherever it is found. 

The current section provides information on the different impacting factors that affect the underwater heritage as well as the efforts made by the international community to mitigate them and preserve it for the enjoyment of current and future generations. It also covers the different lines of action that UNESCO has put in place in terms of capacity-building, assistance missions given to the States Parties or UNESCO’s emergency preparedness and responses.  

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